To know Helen was an experience with true grace. Her warm smile and tender heart made those around her feel at ease and secure. She loved unconditionally with no bounds. But it was her mild manner that was her strength, and you had no choice but to surrender to her love.
Helen grew up in Dorchester, the oldest of 8 children born to Mary (Masabny) and Michael Rawan, both of whom immigrated from Syria. They worked hard to provide for their family, and if they lacked in material things, there was yet an abundance of love and faith to compensate. Helen was her mother’s helper and her sisters and brothers were her best friends. Together they made many memories at home, at church, at SOYO, at the USO, and at the Beach House.
Helen attended Bryant and Stratton Business College, now Newbury College, studied Business Law at Boston University, and received a certificate from the American Institute of Banking. Before marrying the Honorable James N. Gabriel "Jim", and starting her family, she worked at the State Street Bank in Boston, where she made lifelong friends.
In her early married life with a young family, Helen was involved with her husband in local politics serving as a Ward 7 Committee member, President, Vice President and Secretary of the Cambridge Women’s Republican Club and Delegate to their many State and New England Regional Conventions. Helen was active in the Cambridge Civic Association, helping to bring about government reforms; and for many years she served as an Election Day Organizer in Cambridge, believing fervently in the right and responsibility to vote. She not only worked for her husband’s political campaigns but also for those of others, notably Hon. Elliot L. Richardson, Senator Edward W. Brooke, Governor Volpe, and Lt. Gov. Whittier. She tirelessly campaigned with Jim, going door to door while pregnant and with her toddlers in tow, quietly staying by his side, bringing people close to him by her mere presence and warmth. As her late husband always said, together they built a meaningful career. In fact, they did everything together as a team.
Helen and Jim’s real focus was their faith and their family, not only their five daughters, but their extended families, because family came first. They knew such joy in their 42 years of marriage, that despite Jim’s early passing, they shared all a couple could hope to share and a love that never died.
Nineteen years ago, when one of her daughters, Cindy, passed away, Helen’s heart broke in a way that would never mend, but she stayed completely focused on keeping her family together. Devoted to her five daughters, Helen exemplified a mother’s love, to the very end of her life caring for and protecting her “girls” from her pain. She was our quiet tower of power.
The love Helen shared with all those around her is a reflection of her Orthodox faith. St. Mary’s became her home after she married Jim, but also continued to share her heart with St. John of Damascus. Her faith was strong and unwavering, and she exemplified for so many what that spirit could personify. She was an energetic volunteer, involved in Cambridge PTA activities, the Cambridge Red Cross and Easter Seal Drives, donating to charities and nonprofits that were close to her heart. Jim was a disabled Vet from WWII, and Helen gave freely of her time, talent and treasure to this cause. She and Jim together were among the first supporters of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, working with Danny Thomas and the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), and Helen supported Jim when he served on its original Board.
Helen adored her grandchildren and great grandchildren, having a special relationship with each of them, gifting each with her understanding of their individuality and, again, her unconditional love. Similarly, she extended her love to her nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. The bigger her family got, the more love she had to give.
Helen gave herself completely to others. There are countless stories of her selflessly caring for, nursing, and supporting others through births, illnesses, or hard times. This was her life and her legacy.
Helen was the dear and devoted wife of the late Hon. James N. Gabriel. Loving mother of Gail Gabriel and her husband Donald Kaiser of Cambridge, the late Cynthia Gabriel and her husband Joel Baer of Braintree, Andrea Gabriel-Jabbour and her husband James Jabbour of Lexington, T. Jane Gabriel and her partner Mike Guigli of Medford, and Helen E. Gabriel-Woodward and her husband Christopher Woodward of Dover. Beloved grandmother “Tete” of 10 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. Dear sister of Gloria Razook of RI, Janice Jabbour of West Roxbury, Patricia Rawan of West Roxbury, Diane Beshere of Hanover, Dennis Rawan of Onset, the late Andrew Rawan and the late Violet Bargoot. She is also survived by many loving nieces, nephews, brothers- and sisters-in-law.
Due to COVID limitations, a private visiting hour and Funeral Service will be held in St. Mary Orthodox Church on Monday September 14, 2020. Graveside funeral prayers will take place at Mt. Auburn Cemetery 580 Mt. Auburn St. Cambridge Monday at approximately 12:45 p.m. Relatives and friends are invited to gather at the gate of Mt. Auburn Cemetery to join the funeral procession to the graveside.
In lieu of flowers, please make contributions in Helen’s memory to St. Mary Orthodox Church 8 Inman St. Cambridge, MA 02139 (stmaryorthodoxchurch.org) or to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital 501 St. Jude Pl. Memphis, TN 38105 (stjude.org) or to Antiochian Village Camp 201 St. Ignatius Trail Bolivar, PA 15923 (avcamp.org).
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St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis TN 38105
Antiochian Village Camp
201 St. Ignatius Tr., Bolivar PA 15923
St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church
8 Inman St, Cambridge St. MA 02139