February 27, 1947 - January 30, 2021
Helena Toomer, age 73, of New Castle, DE, died on Saturday, January 30, 2021.
Born in Philadelphia, PA on February 27, 1947, she was a daughter of the late Tennis Hirtlee Hagins and Mabel Thomas Hagins. Mrs. Toomer was a 1965 business admissions and retail sales graduate of Edward Bok Tech in Philadelphia, PA. She would go on to enjoy a diverse and interesting career that drew on her many talents and passions. A truly gifted R&B singer, Mrs. Toomer was a well-known recording artist in the early 1960s. Patti LaBelle took an early interest in her career, and introduced her to her own manager. Ms. LaBelle arranged for Mrs. Toomer to sing with and for some of the most important figures in local music at the time, including Danny and the Juniors, Pat Marioni, Bill and Tilly Holmes, Tommy Bell, Morris Bailey and Bobby Martin. She recorded for music labels, Rugby and Virtue, under her stage names, “Marva Lee” and “Helena Troy.”
As a political activist and human rights advocate, Mrs. Toomer was a pioneer in welfare reform along with fellow organizers, Roxanne Jones and Jean Harvey Thomas. During her years on the Philadelphia political stage, she worked side-by-side with many influential policy-makers. Some of those Mrs. Toomer partnered with were former senator, Hardy Williams; attorneys, Stephen Josel and Lewis Small; state representative, Thaddeus Kirkland; the late Judge William Brown, Sr.; and Roberta Hartshorn. In Delaware, she was aided by Senator Harris McDowell and State Representative James Johnson. Because of Mrs. Toomer’s many significant efforts on behalf of the less fortunate, she was featured in a news story about human rights heroes by reporter, Doug Shimmell, on Channel 10 television several years ago.
She was raised in a Christian home and lived a Christian life of love, charity and compassion. An active member of the Evangelistic Temple of Truth for many years, Mrs. Toomer was deeply loved and respected by her church family.
She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Anthony Nathaniel Toomer; daughter, Randi Bernice Robinson-Toomer; son, Jerome Jabil Ballard; special son, Frank Potter; sister, Doris A. Hagins; special sister, Mother Gladys Mathis; brother-in-law, James Melvin; aunt, Julia Potter; uncle, Karl Tyler, Sr.; and special friend, Terrence W. Beck. Mrs. Toomer is survived by her step-children, Nathaniel Person, Harriet Howie, Nadine Hogan-Snow, Stephen Ballard, Stephanie Ballard, Amelia Ballard, Gregory Lee Robinson, Jr., Paige Robinson and Darren Robinson; godchildren, Andrea Beck, Dominique Potter, Shelly Parker, Corrin Helena Moses, Omar Hayes, Jaquan Brooks and Christian Williams; daughters-in-law, Lorraine Ballard and Peggy Ann Person; sister, Joyce A. Truett; special sisters, Verda Jackson, Theresa Ferguson, Judith Hughes, Dorothy McNeal and Valerie Burton; brother, Rev. Paul Hagins, Sr.; brother-in-law, Will McLaughlin; sisters-in-law, Evelyn Toomer Hailey, Sr., Mary Lois McClain and Annie Ruth Toomer; aunt, Ella Mae Frederick; great aunt, Mary Weatherly; cousin, Betty Jane McClenton; special caregiver and beloved cousin, Keisha McClenton; church family, Deacon and Sister Hall and Pastor and Sister Ellis; extended family, the Hagins, Thomas and Weatherbee families; special friends, Bessie O. Beck and her family and Deene Beck; close friend of the family, James L. Stewart; all family in Swanwyck Estates; former husband, Gregory Lee Robinson, Sr.; special Bayada health aides, Esta Williams, Sharon Robinson, and Kim; and many adopted children and grandchildren.
The family extends their sincere gratitude to the wonderful doctors who cared for Mrs. Toomer. In Delaware, her special doctors were Dr. Pasquale Fucci, Dr. Thomas Evans, Dr. Seth Ivins, Dr. Hassan Ali, Dr. Townsend, Dr. Robert Delose, Dr. Yahati, Dr. Albert lannucci and the late Dr. Jonathan Kama; in Chester, PA, she was cared for by Dr. Orroco, Dr. Haith, Dr. Goldman and Dr. Eric Johnson.
All services will be held privately.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in memory of Mrs. Toomer to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.