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Helen N. (Smith) McGowan

April 16, 1940 ~ January 15, 2021 (age 80)


Helen Noreen McGowan (nee Smith), Mahwah, NJ

On January 15th, 2021, after blessing this world with her kindness, smile, humor and love for 80 years and 4 months, Helen Noreen McGowan passed through this world, with Francis Michael “Frank” McGowan, her husband of 59 years, holding her hand.

Helen was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, friend, college professor and so much more. The daughter of Irish immigrants Ultan Nicholas (Co.Cavan) and Nora Smith (nee Hegarty, Co.Kerry), Helen was a proud Bronx native and double-dutch champion growing up on Albany Crescent in St. John parish, with her brothers Jimmy, David and John. Helen went to St. Johns grade school and Cathedral High School in Manhattan. Thank you to that family for raising such a wonderful person.

Even after making so many great friends over a lifetime, those from her childhood years remained always close, making annual trips together in later years with destinations ranging from Ireland to Alaska. Thank you to those “golden girls” for a lifetime of friendship.

After Helen and Frank married in 1961, they relocated for a few years to the Midwest and started a family, eventually moving back east and settling in on Bayberry Drive in Mahwah, NJ for 54 years. Here they built a home in Immaculate Conception parish, and developed so many lasting friendships in their neighborhood, at their church, through their bridge group, skiing, golf, lake outings, and the never-ending dinner parties. Thank you to all of you, it has made all the difference.

While raising a family of 5 children, Stephen, Maura (Maguire), Michael, Kristen (Powers) and Matthew, Helen used her ample free time to enroll in college, receiving her bachelor’s, then master’s degrees and eventually her doctorate (Ph.D.) from New York University. Mr. and Mrs. McGowan were now Dr. and Mr. McGowan; Frank and the kids could not have been more proud. Thank you to all of those who helped along that seemingly endless educational journey.

With not much else to do (while going to night school and raising 5 of the finest children ever), Helen decided a career in teaching was the next step. She began her career teaching accounting and economics at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, NY, where she retired from 28 years later with the distinguished title of professor emeritus. During her tenure, Dr. McGowan took a sabbatical to study and write about the Celtic Tiger, the Irish economy which was booming at the time. There are countless friends, colleagues and students who were on this journey with Helen. Each one of you had an impact, thank you all.

Eventually these five fine children married their even finer spouses. Helen had 3 daughters-in-law and 2 sons-in law, who were thought of as sons and daughters. Tim Maguire, Cindy McGowan (nee Provenzano), Dennis Powers, Sarah McGowan (nee Kayal) and Marissa McGowan (nee Pagnani) have expanded the family to the sheer joy of Helen and Frank. Lake Placid, in the Adirondack Park, became a home away from home for the expanding family. Both daughters were married there, and for the last 30 years the entire family has gathered together for weeks at a time to dine, drink, laugh, boat, golf, play tennis, hike, ski, snowshoe, play cards, and laugh some more. Helen was at the center of it all.

Over these past 30 years, the family continued to grow, with 10 grandchildren all learning different things from Helen, sometimes from her words, sometimes from her actions, always from her love. Helen never missed a school play or Easter egg hunt, from New Jersey to Maryland to Illinois. Her grandchildren - Jessica, Christine and Maureen McGowan, Kate and Brendan Maguire, Meghan, Emma and Ryan Powers, Shannon and Sean McGowan were the apple of her eye. Just a few weeks ago, Helen learned there will be another grandson coming this summer – upon hearing this, her smile was unforgettable, and followed by some motherly advice.

There are not words meaningful enough for those of us in this family to express our gratitude for the family Helen created. We will cherish her in our hearts every day forward.

Due to the current health restrictions in place, a private funeral mass will be held at Immaculate Conception Church in Mahwah, NJ at 10 AM on Friday, January 22. Regrettably, this service can only be attended by the small pre-confirmed group which the church currently permits. We know many would like to attend, and sincerely appreciate your understanding. The service will be available for livestream on-line viewing via the Immaculate Conception Church website . Following this service, friends and family are welcome to attend a brief outdoor burial service at Maryrest Cemetery at 770 Darlington Ave., Mahwah, NJ. For those attending the burial, we ask that masks be worn and social distancing protocols be adhered to. Again, we fully understand any reservations on attending the burial service. At a later date, after health restrictions are lifted, a remembrance celebration for Helen will be held for all friends and family to attend. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Van Emburgh-Sneider-Pernice Funeral Home, Ramsey, NJ.   Information and other details can be found at the funeral home website Thank you, the McGowan family.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Helen N. (Smith) McGowan, please visit our floral store.


January 22, 2021

11:15 AM
Maryrest Cemetery
770 Darlington Avenue
Mahwah, NJ 07430

Private Services

Van Emburgh-Sneider-Pernice Funeral Home
109 Darlington Ave
Ramsey, NJ 07446

Private Service

Immaculate Conception RC Church
900 Darlington Ave
Mahwah, NJ 07430

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