Music 32

Helen Marie Hakanson

August 24, 1924 ~ June 27, 2020 (age 95)


To see live musical performances and an original documentary about Helen please visit the links below: 

A video about Helen: "Adventure Grandma"

Another Video: "The Love Box"

An article about Helen in the Oregon Bluegrass Association Newsletter

Helen singing with members of her family: "I Love Your Automobile"

Helen singing in 1985 with members of the Bluegrass class that she started: "Don’t Fence Me In"

A recent interview of Helen and her granddaughter, Ellie Hakanson.


Helen Marie Hakanson passed away on June 27, 2020, at the age of 95. Despite the challenges of staying socially distant during the 2020 pandemic, Helen was surrounded by her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren at the moment of her death.


Helen was born in Aberdeen, WA, on August 24, 1924, to Pearl and Homer Schow. She had an older brother named Gerald Schow. The young family was impoverished and struggled to survive. At age seven, Helen joined her Aunt Olive and Uncle Lea Mallery in Oakland, Oregon, where she remained for the rest of her childhood years.


Helen's indomitable spirit and strong constitution helped her recover from the hardships of her early childhood experiences. Aunt Olive and Uncle Lea provided Helen with everything she needed to thrive in Oakland. Helen studied piano with Oakland teacher Esther Hakanson, the mother of her future husband, John Hakanson. Those early experiences with music led to a lifelong musical journey.


At age 18, Helen was formally adopted by the Mallerys and changed her name from Schow to Mallery. Helen had three adopted siblings, James and Doral Mallery, and Ray Conroy, all of whom got a fresh start on life through the kind generosity of Aunt Olive and Uncle Lea.


After graduating from Oakland High School, Helen attended the University of Oregon and later earned a degree in nursing from the U of O Nursing School in Portland (now OHSU) in 1946.


During college, Helen reacquainted herself with her childhood neighbor, John Hakanson, who was serving in the Army in the South Pacific Theatre of World War II.  While John was overseas, he and Helen wrote each other over 800 letters and fell in love, making plans for their life together after the war. When John returned from overseas, they were married in Oakland, Oregon on March 24, 1946, a union that would span more than 70 years.


Throughout the 1950s to the early 1970s, Helen's career in nursing supported her family while John pursued his education and career goals, eventually becoming president of Clackamas Community College. Helen played an active and supportive role in the early days of the college. 


Helen had an insatiable appetite for learning. She was a musician and an avid reader. She enjoyed gardening and swimming and was an excellent cook and seamstress. She was always ready for an adventure and was an inspiration to her family.


Helen's greatest interest outside of loving and caring for her family was music. Music was the thread that ran through her life, from the early days in Oakland to the day she passed away.


Helen played her childhood classical piano pieces well into her nineties. She sang in the Portland Lutheran Choir for 30 years and played violin as a member of the East Multnomah County Community Orchestra, along with her sister-in-law and lifelong friend, Marianne Hakanson Kadas.


At age 40, Helen became interested in folk music, which led to more than 50 years of learning and sharing music in her community, including Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddle.


Helen performed in front of many live audiences throughout her life, and with help from her grandchildren, she made it into the digital age with performances on YouTube and Facebook live streams.


Helen was preceded in death by her loving husband of over seventy years, John Warren Hakanson. She is survived by her four children, John Lea Haakanson (Cara Haakanson), David Guy Hakanson (Shelley Sperr - Hakanson), Lou Ann Hakanson, and Robert Warren Hakanson (Kathy Fetty); eleven grandchildren, Claire, Camille, Olivia, Bryan, Guy, Lilian, Maya, Riley, Ellie, Amy and Henry; and three great-grandchildren; Ashton, Ben and Kai.


There will be a celebration of life for Helen on August 7th, 2021 in Oakland, OR. For more information contact Dave Hakanson:



To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Helen Marie Hakanson, please visit our floral store.


Celebration of Life (nf)
August 7, 2021

Please email:
Oakland, OR 97462

Please note
Please contact Dave Hakanson at for more information about the Celebration.
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