Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

November 18, 2012

Helen W. Milliken

TRAVERSE CITY — Helen Wallbank Milliken, 89, passed away at home in Traverse City on Nov. 16, after an extended illness.

A native of Denver, Colo., she attended Kent School for Girls there and was a graduate of Smith College (1945).

She married William G. Milliken in Denver on Oct. 20, 1945, following his service in the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II. He later became governor of Michigan (1969-1982).

She is survived by her husband; her son, Bill Jr., of Ann Arbor; and her sister, Elaine Jackson, of Denver.

She was preceded in death by her daughter, Elaine, in 1993; and her parents, Stanley and Nellie Wallbank.

Her daughter, Elaine, following her University of Michigan law school studies, awakened in her a consuming interest in women's equality and women's affairs. She assumed leadership roles in the women's movement in the U.S., including national co-chair of ERAmerica and delegate to the International Women's Year conference in Houston. Her other board memberships included the Women's Resource Center and Michigan Land Use Institute.

As Michigan's First Lady, she cofounded ArtrainUSA, an art museum housed in rail cars that visited over 850 communities across the U.S. since 1971.

Helen was awarded honorary degrees from the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan University. She was enrolled in the graduate program in landscape architecture at Michigan State University, an undertaking that her father, the inveterate gardener, would have taken great pride in. Gardening, her several West Highland Terriers and her Siamese cat, Vita, were always loves of her life.

The family is deeply indebted to Comfort Keepers for its ongoing support and especially to Munson Hospice for the empathy and caring they so capably provided.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to Helen's House, c/o Women's Resource Center (, 720 South Elmwood, Traverse City, MI 49684; or Michigan Land Use Institute (, 148 East Front, Traverse City, MI 49684.

Please share thoughts with the family at

The family is being served by the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home, Traverse City.

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