Helen Wade Branford, a pioneer in Extension work in North Carolina, was inducted into the Dr. Jane S. McKimmon Family Hall of Fame on May 25, 2011. Mrs. Branford was known for her professionalism and excellence in work.
Mrs. Branford was employed as a home economics teacher in the Beaufort County School System until she joined Extension as a home economics agent in Wilson County. She remained in Wilson County until 1959 when she was promoted to the State Extension Office as District 4-H Specialist. In 1961 she was appointed District Home Economics Extension Agent and served on the district supervisory team at N.C. State University. In 1970-72, Mrs. Branford was granted a leave of absence from Extension in order to direct the Turn Key III Home Ownership Educational Counseling programs for low-income families. This was a cooperative program with the Housing Authorities in Winston-Salem, Wilmington, Charlotte, Durham and High Point.
In 1972 Ms. Branford became the Home Economics State Agent at N.C. A&T State University. She remained in this position until her retirement Jan. 1, 1977.
The Scotland County native was a lifelong teacher and a lifelong learner, earning her B.S. degree in home economics from Bennett College in 1935, and her M.Ed. degree in adult education from North Carolina State University in 1968. She taught her students to take pride in their work. Her philosophy was “if it is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”
Mrs. Branford was always willing to extending a helping hand. During World War II, she served as a bookkeeper with the USO in Laurinburg, NC. She was also the Director of Freshmen Students at Bennett College in 1945. She used her home economics skills to help her students learn personal and professional skills.
In retirement Mrs. Branford continued her community work as a volunteer. She served as a member of the board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity. She helped many African American families to secure their first home. Because of her years of experience with Cooperative Extension, she assisted Habitat families with skills needed to be a successful first-time home owner. Her volunteering didn’t stop with one organization. She served as a volunteer for the Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation. Her goal was to educate African-American on sickle cell. She also wanted to recruit them to become donors. She was a great educator and truly impacted her community.
Helen was an active member of Bennett College Alumnae Association, Concerned Womens’ Club, Guilford County Home Economics Club and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. As a member of the St. James Presbyterian Church, she served as an Elder, Deacon and member of the Church Session. She was active in the Presbyterian Womens’ Organization, the Sarah Barber Circle, the Essie B. Meares Circle, the Evangelism Committee, Bell Choir and Church Women United. She assisted in organizing the Young People’s Organization, and worked to develop many young people in the church.
Mrs. Branford was loved and admired by many. In her eulogy, friends and co-workers described her as a compassionate person; one who’s sense of integrity guides her in everything she does; a dedicated and devoted person; one who strives for excellence and who is always willing to help others.
The May 25 induction ceremony was held at the Jane S. McKimmon Center for Extension and Continuing Education at N.C. State University in Raleigh during the state’s Centennial Celebration for Family and Consumer Sciences. The Hall of Fame is sponsored by Family and Consumer Sciences and the North Carolina Extension and Community Association.