LORAIN — About a dozen people gathered at the gravesite of famed local poet Helen Steiner Rice at Elmwood Cemetery in Lorain on Sunday.
ary Hilaire Tavenner, of Lorain, led the memorial service for Rice’s 119th birthday with members of the Friends of Helen Steiner Rice, also known as the International Writers Association, in attendance. A picture of Rice was placed at her headstone. Each member of the group read one of 10 facts about Rice for the service.
Rice was born in Lorain in 1900, where she attended and graduated from Lorain High School in 1918. She worked at Lorain Electric Light and Power Co. before marrying a wealthy bank vice president and moving to Dayton. After the stock market crash in 1929, she found work writing greeting cards full-time at Gibson Art Co. in Cincinnati after her husband’s money dried out.
By 1940, she was Gibson’s editor and was widely acknowledged as one of the leading poets in the greeting card industry. Her poems have appeared on greeting cards and have been read on television. Her work later earned her an invitation to the White House to be photographed with President Calvin Coolidge. She died from health complications in 1980 in Cincinnati and was buried in Lorain.
Tavenner said Rice needed to be remembered for her great accomplishments in literature as well as her personality and identity that her hometown should be proud of.
“She didn’t have an easy life, but she had an extremely kind and passionate soul,” she said.
Tavenner started the Friends of Helen Steiner Rice a little more than 20 years ago after she came back to her hometown and learned Rice was barely remembered by residents. After several years, the Friends of Helen Steiner Rice was able to get her recognized. Helen Steiner Rice Elementary School was named after her, and a historical marker was placed in Lakeview Park.