As a mother, Helen Boles Days was a “superhero.”
“She was tough. She was demanding. She drove us to achieve,” said her son, Michael I. Days. “ ‘Don’t even think can’t in this house,’ she often said.”
Through years of fierce love and determination, she groomed Michael Days and his sister, Vera J. Days. He would rise to become editor of the Daily News and then The Inquirer’s vice president for diversity and inclusion; his sister to a director of investigations at Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services.
Mrs. Days, 96, of Philadelphia, died of complications of COVID-19 on Thursday, April 9, at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood.
Mrs. Days was born on St. Helena Island, Beaufort County, S.C., to Viola Boles and Willis Bowles. She was raised by her maternal grandparents, John and Ellen Boles, and grew up steeped in the rich African ancestry of her Gullah Gechee community.
After attending public schools on St. Helena Island, she moved to Philadelphia, where she worked at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel for many years. She later married.
As a young woman, she attended New Rising Sun Baptist Church in South Philadelphia but later joined the Catholic Church so her children could attend strong schools.
“She believed a Catholic education was the path to a decent life, and we honored her with collegiate degrees from Holy Cross and Gwynedd Mercy," Michael Days said. “We both have advanced degrees, and she was proud of that.”
Mrs. Days had worshiped at St. Malachy’s Church in North Philadelphia. After moving to West Philadelphia, she joined St. Rose of Lima parish and sang in the choir.
Despite her modest salary, "we vacationed every year in Wildwood,” Michael Days said.
“Her passing is a significant loss,” her daughter-in-law, Angela P. Dodson, said.
In addition to her son and daughter, Mrs. Days is survived by a sister; four grandsons; and three-great-grandchildren.
A private service will be held Monday, April 20, and a memorial service is being planned for the fall.