By an edhat reader
Helen (Sokol) Ciabattoni, devoted wife, loving mother and grandmother, passed away peacefully on August 24, 2017.
Helen was born on February 22, 1924, in Reading, Pennsylvania. In her youth Helen was a star athlete, excelling in swimming, softball and basketball. She was one of the premier swimmers in Pennsylvania during the late 1930s and early '40s. In 1945, Helen married Orlando "Londi" Ciabattoni, a marriage that lasted 71 years until his death in 2016. The newlyweds drove from Reading to Santa Maria, California, in their new Chevy convertible to begin their life together on the West Coast.
Helen worked as a secretary and dispatcher for the California Highway Patrol in Santa Maria until 1949, when she and Londi moved to Santa Barbara after she was offered a position in the Santa Barbara CHP office. Helen's work in public service included the UCSB Police Department, Santa Barbara County Fire Department and the Jury Commissioner office, as well as the Santa Barbara YMCA and SBCC Adult Education.
Helen adeptly balanced her work, athletic and home life. She raised three children while continuing to participate in competitive sports and recreational activities. She was a standout in the California Senior Olympics program in the 1980s, and travelled with the US Master's Swimmers to compete in Russia and Finland, where she won three gold medals.
Helen was a trailblazer in many ways. While at the YMCA, she initiated the first synchronized swimming classes, taught the first swim classes for 3 - 5 year old children, and was one of the first female lifeguards hired. In addition, Helen received national acclaim for teaching and training Down Syndrome swimmers, which was a precedent-setting practice in the 1960s. Her first-born son, Michael, had Down Syndrome, and loved being in the water and swimming.
Helen is predeceased by her husband, Londi, and her their son Michael. She is survived by daughters Karen Ciabattoni and Sally (Ciabattoni) Saenger, son-in-law Skip Saenger, granddaughter Mahealani Ciabattoni, and numerous nieces and nephews. The family would like to thank Dr. Bernstein for his years of excellent medical attention and guidance, Yolanda Renga for her loving care and dedication and the wonderful staff at Villa Riviera. Helen will be dearly missed by her family and friends.
A graveside service is planned for September 11, at Goleta Cemetery, at 11:00am. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to Alpha Resource Center.