Today marks the retirement of Helen Fahey, whose career at NBP spans more than 50 years.
During my first few months at NBP, I was told there was going to be an 80th birthday celebration for a fellow staff member. ‘Did you say 80?! How long has she worked here?’ I asked.
I learned that her career at NBP started in 1946 as a summer job. Upon graduating from Perkins School for the Blind, Helen approached NBP founder Francis Ierardi for a full-time job. He said no. Although she had proven herself, Ierardi felt she needed to explore life outside the blindness community. As a result, Helen got a job inspecting safety catches of M1 rifles during the Korean War and returned to NBP in 1960. During her time here, Helen has worked on hundreds of publications from The Weekly News (NBP’s founding publication) to Harry Potter, walked countless miles up and down the collating table, and, at one time, managed half the employees in the building as the collating supervisor.
After hearing her history, I imagined meeting an imposing, institutional figure; I grew up in parochial school where women that well-respected and with such career longevity were intimidating at best. And then I met Helen – a warm, inviting woman whose guide dog, a German Shepherd named Fletch, is the most imposing thing about her.
Fellow employees describe Helen as cheerful and loyal. I add the words strong and spunky. Age hasn’t slowed her down as evidenced in an interview from 2008 in which Helen remarked, “I got here at 9:30 and I’ve already stapled 300 books, and I took time to get coffee and a bagel.” (It was only 11:30)
National Braille Press has thrived for 86 years because of the people who work here. There is a real sense of camaraderie among the employees and a pride in their work. Helen has been an integral part of the fabric of NBP for many years.
Helen, we wish you much enjoyment in your retirement as you spend time with your family. Thank you for everything.