By Greg Gelpi
Whisked away on the Japanese premier's private plane amidst an uprising in the Philippines and helping raise more than $3 million for cancer research, she has dedicated her life to service for more than 50 years and continues to do so.
Helen Roquemore-Cox, an active member of the Forest Park chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, will be recognized for her 50 years in the chapter with community leaders roasting her, a 50-year pin and a young magnolia tree planted in her honor.
Refusing to let political uprisings or physical health stand in her way, she traveled around the world to 13 countries, serving as the world leader, or most grand patron, of the Order as well as the leader of the state's Order.
"At times, I think maybe I should have stayed at home," Roquemore-Cox said. "I get a great deal of enjoyment out of helping other people."
In her positions, she led by example, assisting in numerous capacities, including serving on the Children's Mental Retardation Rehabilitation Hospital Board under President Jimmy Carter.
To become the world leader, she rose through the ranks of the Order, a 21-year process in which she had to serve three years in each position.
"I'll never fill her shoes," Ellen Lowe, the current head of the Forest Park chapter, said. "She is just one really special lady who just fills your heart."
The same vigor, which caused her to join the Order, still fuels her nonstop volunteerism.
"It put her in the hospital last year," Lowe said of her constant running around to lend a hand. "We were really worried. She just works nonstop."
She helped raise more than $3.2 million for cancer research and toured the country, speaking in 47 states about cancer research from 1970-1973.
"It was the largest single donation to the American Cancer Society ever," Lowe said.
Taking a breather from her volunteer work, the Forest Park chapter of Order of the Eastern Star will celebrate Roquemore-Cox's life of volunteerism.
"This is her home chapter," Lowe said. "That is why we are honoring her."
The banquet to honor Roquemore-Cox will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Order of the Eastern Star lodge in Forest Park.
"I plan to (stay active) as long as I'm able to and as long as I'm still alive," Roquemore-Cox said.
The Order of the Eastern Star is the largest social fraternal group in the world with both men and women as members. The non-profit group raises funds for numerous charities throughout the year, both local and national.