Helen Kern

Helen Lucille Hammer Kern, 97 of Scottsboro, passed from this life on Wednesday, March 24, 2022. A celebration of life was held on Saturday, May 14, 2022 at First Baptist Church of Scottsboro.
Helen was born on Monday, October 6, 1924 in Knoxville to Helen and A.B. Hammer, Sr. She lived on the outskirts of Knoxville and attended Farragut High until her family relocated to Anniston. During her senior year, she dated transfer student, Herbert V. Kern. Since Helen’s mother did not drive, her father got a second car for Helen to drive her younger brothers to school, and they often complained she was always late for visiting with Herb. After graduating, Helen attended the University of Alabama while Herb attended Presbyterian College and trained to be a pilot, awaiting deployment to the Pacific during WWII. That year, Helen’s father bought a salvage stock, rented an empty building in Guntersville and moved the family there to start Hammer’s.

At the University of Alabama, Helen caught the attention of actor, Mickey Rooney, who invited Helen and her friend to go flying the next day. Herb always teased Helen that she could have been number two, but her heart was always Herb’s. In July, just before he shipped out, Helen’s father gave her $100 and a train ticket to Kansas where Herb was stationed; they married there. After the war, Herb returned to Guntersville and worked at the store until they opened in Haleyville. On March 13, 1948, Herb and Helen moved to open Hammer’s in Scottsboro, working side by side. For over 74 years, they had the support of faithful employees she felt were like family.

Helen and Herb were committed to their community. They supported numerous charities and individuals attending college or seminary. Many never knew who their benefactors were. Helen was especially committed to her church. They thought it important to attend together, so Helen went with Herb to a Catholic church in Guntersville, but later, they attended First Baptist of Scottsboro together, where they remained members. Helen was a dedicated Sunday school teacher and spent many hours on her lessons. She had biblical reference encyclopedias that would rival many church libraries. She began teaching Sunday school as a young girl and continued for over 70 years. Although financially conservative, she was more socially liberal than most thought, having supported women in church leadership and other social issues. She was civic-minded, and in the late 1950s, she was a Girl Scout leader in addition to working at Hammer’s. Helen also loved to sing, play the piano and was an early member of the Scottsboro Music Study Club. Young people often gathered at her home for sing-alongs while she prepared refreshments.

Helen cheered for Auburn when they were not playing Alabama. Even in her 90s, she would wake up singing, “Yeah, Alabama,” on every fall football Saturday. Helen’s other passions were family, historic preservation, bridge games, the Three Arts Club, the Scottsboro-Jackson Heritage Center and rescuing stray animals. Helen’s interests led her and friend, Stina, to travel to Atlanta to take weekend courses in museum development at the High Museum of Art. They used the information to start the Three Arts’ Rent A Painting program in an upstairs location on the square. Local artists would showcase their work, and people interested in purchasing could rent to buy. This program later morphed into the Art in the Park at Caldwell Park.

Family was her most beloved passion, and she looked forward to hosting 20 to 30 of her siblings, nieces and nephews at Thanksgiving. When she was no longer able to prepare the tables and make everything attractive, she still directed it. Although she did not enjoy cooking very much, her fruit salad was famous at Thanksgiving. After the big meal, most would retire to the living room where her sister, Emily, would play Christmas carols on the piano, and everyone sang along. The best entertainment was when Emily played the “Nutcracker Suite” while Helen and sisters-in-law, Wanda and Vera danced a mock ballet. She kept everyone laughing until evening.

Helen’s kind-hearted, loving spirit was central to who she was. She liked to be generous, she cared about people and animals, she helped others be successful, she was kind, gracious, modest and loving. She was committed to things that last. Now, she will enjoy Heaven as she enjoyed life. She found salvation as a gift from God, not of works. Helen and Herb belonged to that group, the greatest generation. We must now carry their legacy forward. By this, Helen will live on in this world and the next.

She is survived by her daughter, Anita (Carl Fowler) Kern; brothers, Fred (Vera) Hammer, Robert (Wanda) Hammer; sister, Emily Hall; many nieces, nephews and siblings from both sides of the family. She leaves behind many close friends in Scottsboro and Atlanta. She was preceded in death by her husband, Herb; parents; son, Herbert Kern, Jr.; brothers, A.B. Hammer, Jr., Earl Hammer.

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