In Loving Memory of Helen Ann Groves
February 16, 1932 - January 24, 2019
Helen Ann Hayes Groves, daughter of Thomas Henry Hayes Jr and Hellen Meadow Hayes, was born on February 16, 1932, on the kitchen table of the T.H. Hayes Funeral Home in Memphis, Tennessee. The family-owned funeral home was the oldest Black business in Memphis. Helen's father was a savvy and influential businessman who had a hand in hotels, restaurants, buses, insurance companies, nightclubs and even had a brand of flour named "Helen Ann Flour" after his daughter. T.H. Hayes Jr. was also widely recognized as the owner of the Negro League baseball team, the Birmingham Black Barons, who recruited and developed Willie Mays and Satchel Paige.
Helen attended Booker T. Washington high school and was a majorette in the school's marching band. She proudly led the procession down Beale Street during celebrations. (She could still twirl a baton well into her later years.)
At the age of sixteen, Helen was accepted to Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee. It was there that she met the love of her life, the handsome and charming Wesley Groves. Wesley was a medical student at Meharry Medical College, just across the street from Fisk. He had seen the naive Helen standing with some of her classmates and approached her under the guise of a freshman tour guide.
Upon graduating with a degree in Business Administration, Helen married Wesley on July 11, 1953. The couple initially moved to St. Louis and then, after a brief visit to Los Angeles, on to Hawaii where Wesley served as a Captain in the U.S. military. Helen really enjoyed her time on the big island. While Wesley performed surgery at Tripler Hospital and conducted field inspections of the troops' quarters with his white gloves and swagger stick, Helen began to perfect her skills as a very busy "Domestic Engineer." Life was not all work. Helen enjoyed hosting and attending parties on the base. There was even some time for lounging with her husband and their "bad dog" Huni on the beach.
Upon completing his military obligations, Wesley and Helen returned to the mainland where Wesley worked as an attending Surgeon at Kansas City General Hospital in the state of Missouri. On May 27, 1958, Helen gave birth to her son, Wesley Michael Groves, Jr.
Helen had fallen in love with Los Angeles when she and Wesley toured the golden state before their move to Hawaii. In 1959, the couple moved to their first home in LA on Cochran Ave. If you have ever driven a car in Los Angeles, you have probably been in their old living room. The house was razed, along with many others in that predominantly Black-owned swath of land, to make way for the Santa Monica freeway.
The family moved to a new home on Don Jose Drive in Baldwin Hills, CA and on June 5th, 1961, welcomed a daughter, Courtney Michelle Hayes Groves. Courtney always maintained she was Mom's (and everyone else"s) "Favorite." Helen took great pride in raising her two children and providing a loving home. She managed the business end of Wesley's medical practice and was the quintessential force in crafting his professional image.
Helen loved to shop! Always scouting for a bargain, she was a connoisseur of high-end department stores, boutiques, and designer sales. Her ability to root out swag and accessorize fashionable ensembles was legendary. She even appeared in the May 1966 "style setter" section of Ebony Magazine. Helen was equally comfortable scouring yard sales and the bins of discount stores. Her favorite archeological site was the "99 Cents" store.
Art was in Helen's blood. Helen obtained an Interior Decorator's license and used it to create a beautiful home for her family. She attended classes in painting, sculpture, and glass making. In 1975 the family traveled to Haiti and began to collect works by the Country's master painters. Helen liked to find art in nature. She had a green thumb and felt most comfortable outside, digging in the dirt. One of her favorite pastimes was to spend the day repotting plants in the family greenhouse with Wesley, Michael, and Courtney. Helen would often use foliage and bark from the back yard to create beautiful centerpieces and arrangements.
Helen had a love for pets and a variety of creatures that crawled, slithered, walked and swam. She especially loved dogs. Beauregard and Gaylord were both fierce looking but very friendly Great Danes who guarded and slobbered on Helen relentlessly. Some of her critters just showed up on the front porch or wandered into the back yard. A King Snake named Crictor, a German Sheppard named Samantha, and her last little-abandoned Sheltie who her Grandson, Omari, named Cinnamon.
Helen and Wesley liked to do things with Pizzazz! In 1971 they moved to a new home, an entertainer's paradise, on Enoro Drive in View Park, overlooking the city of Los Angeles. They opened up their home to many organizations, clubs, and fun loving friends. Memorable themed parties included: "The Great Gatsby," "Put On Your Red Dress, Mama," and the infamous "St. Dibbler"s Day." If you are reading this now you most likely have been privy to the gracious and accommodating hostess of the Groves family.
Helen was involved and passionate about her civic and social organizations including St. John's Episcopal Church, The Los Angeles Chapter of Links Inc., Circle-Lets, Smart Set, Charles Drew Medical Auxiliary and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She was usually engaged in the creative aspect of these groups whether it was fabricating beautiful centerpieces or fun party favors. Helen was the queen of the Wilfandel Club's rummage sale. She would spend countless hours collecting, organizing, and pricing donated items for the fundraiser. Occasionally she couldn't resist the impulse to "pre-purchase" one or two of those items for herself. Helen also looked forward to excursions and gatherings with her less formal clubs such as the Art Group, Theatre Group, and the Beach Group, with whom she made her final appearance last September.
Helen and Wesley were avid world travelers. They had adventures in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Often the couple would embark on continental tours and ocean cruises with their friends.
With that said, there was nothing in the world that gave Helen greater joy than spending time with her four grandchildren, Chaz, Omari, Greer, and Maurice. Having a bit of time to recover after raising her own two children, Helen fell smoothly into babysitting, playing games, and creating elaborate "Ice Cream Rituals" for her captive audience. As the grandchildren grew into teenagers and young adults, Helen was always proud and supportive.
On January 24th, 2019, the sun was shining, and the window was open to a beautiful view of Los Angeles. Helen Groves passed away peacefully at 11:03 am with her son Michael and daughter Courtney holding her hands. We know she is at peace and reunited with Wesley. Helen is survived by her children Wesley Michael Groves, Jr., and Courtney Michele Hayes Groves Young, her grandsons Chaz Michael Foster Groves and Omari Skylar Foster Groves, her granddaughter Greer Helen Young, her youngest grandson Maurice (Meese) Wesley Young, her daughter-in-law Colette Foster Groves and her son-in-law Maurice James Laughton Young.