Helen W. Yuen was a longtime Farmingdale resident and founding member of a Christian nonprofit organization devoted to strengthening Asian-American communities. The former teacher's guiding principles were faith, education and hard work, her family said.

Yuen, who had been battling cancer, died Jan. 19 at Westside Regional Medical Center in Plantation, Fla. She was 85.

Born and raised in the Chinatown section of Manhattan, Helen Wu was the third of four children, all girls, raised by Chinese immigrants.

During her early education, she skipped two grades and, in 1949, graduated from Hunter College in Manhattan at the age of 20 with a bachelor's degree in psychology.

Six years later, she wed Russell Yuen, who also grew up in Chinatown. He would later become an electrical engineer for the Grumman Corp. in Bethpage. The couple initially lived in Manhattan and Queens. Their marriage lasted 54 years, until his death in 2010.

In 1950, Helen Yuen helped found and lead the Chinese Young People's Bible Conference, now known as the Eastern Chinese Bible Conference, a New York-based group serving Asian-Americans in the Northeast.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

She was also a longtime volunteer and Sunday school teacher at True Light Lutheran Church and later Chinese Conservative Baptist Church, both in Chinatown, and at Wantagh Baptist Church.

"She was very dedicated to her beliefs," said daughter Judi Yuen, of Farmingdale, a presentation editor at Newsday. "Faith was the most important thing to her, and that informed the rest of her activities."

During the 1950s and early '60s, Helen Yuen worked as a secretary for several companies, including Swingline in Long Island City and Grumman.

The couple moved to Farmingdale in 1959. She taught science at Main Street School from 1963 to 1965 while studying education as a graduate student at upstate SUNY New Paltz, the family said. The elementary school was demolished in 1980.

She stopped teaching in June 1965 to raise her three children.

"She always encouraged us to achieve and to do our best," Judi Yuen said.

Helen Yuen returned to Grumman in the mid-1980s to work as a secretary and retired in 1996.

In 2003, Yuen moved to Plantation. A nonsmoker, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in April 2012, the family said. She was able to see her first child, David, marry two weeks before her death.

"She was a loving mother to the end. She loved God and loved her family," said David Yuen, of Pembroke Pines, Fla.

In addition to her daughter and son, survivors include another son, Jonathan, of Arlington, Mass.; and sisters Dorothy Gum, of Plantation, Nora Wong of Potomac, Md., and Marion Chin of Flushing, Queens.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Yuen was cremated. A memorial service will be held March 1 at Covenant Village, a senior center in Plantation.