Helen Scholfield of Freeport died March 18.

Helen Scholfield of Freeport died March 18. Credit: Bonnie Scholfield

Decades after Helen Scholfield retired from working with domestic violence survivors, her advocacy was still getting recognized.

“Someone came up to me a few months ago and asked me ‘Are you Helen Scholfield’s daughter,' ” her daughter Bonnie Scholfield said.

The woman told Bonnie Scholfield that her mother had saved her life.

“She told me all about her children and grandchildren's lives and how without my mother her life would have never changed for the better,” Bonnie Scholfield said.

Helen Scholfield, who once served as director of legal services at the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, died on March 18. She was 86 and lived in Freeport.

Scholfield was born on Oct. 15, 1936, in Brooklyn and grew up in Queens. She graduated in 1954 from St. Agnes Cathedral High School in Rockville Centre and went on to attend St. John’s University.

Around that time, she went on a blind date with John Scholfield at a bowling alley. Despite her final score of only 28 points, John was smitten. The two got married in 1958 and welcomed four children: Lisbeth, John, Bonnie, and Chris.

Scholfield was the type of mother who handmade clothes and toys for her children.

“Everything was from scratch,” Bonnie Scholfield said. “We weren't allowed to buy bread at the store. She would make her own bread.”

Life lessons were regularly taught at home.

“She would stop everything when our cat or guinea pigs were going to have a baby,”  her daughter said. “She always made sure that we got to see them give birth so we understood how it worked and to see the miracle of life.”

Scholfield was always looking out for those in need. Bonnie’s older siblings remember Scholfield bringing them to anti-war rallies in the 1960. Their family hosted a girl from an orphanage at their home.

Scholfield’s desire to help others led to a major life pivot. She enrolled in law school when her two youngest kids were still in elementary school.

“Somehow or other she was able to do that and continue being the kind of mom she had always been,” her husband, John Scholfield, said. “It was always a mystery to me how she was able to handle all of that.”

After graduating, her legal career led her to the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which is now part of The Safe Center LI.

“She was the agency's person to go to Albany and attempt to get appropriate legislation to correct injustices,” her husband said.

She was hands-on with clients too.

“She would have a woman on the phone who was in imminent danger,” Bonnie Scholfield said. “She would try to get that person to safety and she'd have the police on the other line.”

At work, she met Lois Schwaeber, also a mother of four, who started off as a volunteer in the 1980s and eventually succeeded Scholfield as director of legal services.

“I never met anybody that was so altruistic as Helen was or that cared about other people the way she did,” Schwaeber said.

Like Scholfield, Schwaeber quickly developed a passion for helping domestic violence victims.

She told Scholfield that she wanted to get a law degree to do more, but hadn’t been to school in 33 years. Scholfield immediately encouraged her and wrote a glowing recommendation letter.

“I got into law school,” Schwaeber said. “I really feel that Helen was the one that made it happen for me.”

As teenagers, Bonnie Scholfield and her siblings spent many nights at award ceremonies for their mother.

“It was like constant because I think she was just such a pioneer,” she said.

Helen Scholfield also served as president of the Nassau County Women's Bar Association, wrote questions for the bar, and contributed to legal textbooks. Her former colleagues told her daughter that local judges were intimidated by her wits.

“She wanted to be remembered for having contributed and actually changed people's lives,”  her husband said. “And she did in both cases.”

Besides her husband and children, Scholfield is survived by six grandchildren and her brother.

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