The Rev. Helen Ward Carry will always be remembered for how much she loved — her God, her church and her family.
As her health started to decline, Rev. Carry told goddaughter Paulette Barrett: “When I make my transition and people ask you how I died, I want you to say to them the more important question is, how did I live?”
Rev. Carry, 96, former executive minister of Christ Universal Temple, died April 8, according to Leak & Sons Funeral Home, which is handling arrangements.
The former Chicago Public Schools administrator was first drawn in 1970 to the teachings of the late Rev. Johnnie Colemon, founder of Christ Universal Temple, a New Thought Christian megachurch.
After becoming Rev. Colemon’s assistant in 1976, Rev. Carry served as the church’s administrator and director of the Johnnie Colemon Institute, the church’s teaching arm. She was ordained in 1980 by the Universal Foundation for Better Living, an international association of Bible-based New Thought Christian churches that focus on healing, meditation and a positive mental attitude.
During her time as assistant minister, she helped design and create the Johnnie Colemon Elementary Academy and became its principal in 1999. She also served as executive minister of the church from 1980 to 2010.
Rev. Carry would always say, “I can never out-give God, whatever I give comes back to me a hundredfold,” explained Barrett.
“She was very particular … all about order. She wanted things to be just right, and we worked until it was the way it was supposed to be,” said Rev. Alberta Ware, a longtime friend who was Rev. Carry’s assistant when she directed the Johnnie Colemon Institute.
Affectionally known by many as “the teacher of teachers,” every student of the church and its institute interacted with her at some point in their lives.
The church inspired many followers, including some celebrities who attended lessons. Rev. Carry had close relationships with inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant and entertainer Ben Vereen.
Rev. Derrick B. Wells said he considers himself her “surrogate son,” as she inspired him to complete his doctorate degree and played an instrumental role in him becoming senior minister of Christ Universal Temple.
“She was meticulous, orderly [and] a perfectionist. But perhaps most importantly, she made you want to be better. She didn’t leave it there; she taught you how to be better,” he said.
“She had this uncanny ability to take life-altering concepts and break them down into easily digestible chunks that made the information consumable.”
Rev. Carry was raised in Bronzeville. She had a long-lasting love of flowers that grew from helping out around her parents’ flower shop. Her father, Anderson Ward, was a florist who catered to Chicago’s Black community.
An exceptional soprano voice landed her a four-year music scholarship from Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans.
Though she later became a New Thought teacher, Rev. Carry’s commitment and dedication to inspire people to reach their full potential first took root during her 25 years at CPS.
After earning a master’s degree from Loyola University, she went on to serve as an assistant director of the CPS Head Start Program for elementary education, an assistant principal, and principal of Webster grade school. She also earned a Ph.D. in education from California Coast University.
Speaking at a Sunday service at the church in 2012, she said: “I don’t care how many letters I may have behind my name. That doesn’t make me any greater than the one who didn’t finish second grade. That person may be expressing more love than I am, so the letters that they put behind my name would be F-O-O-L.”
Even after retiring, she continued teaching classes at the institute and fulfilling her ministerial duties, which included marrying loved ones, preforming services and funerals, and helping other churches get started.
“That’s her. She was always working. … She would always say, ‘The reward for good work is more work,” Barrett said.
“She was a remarkable human being,” she added. “My life is better because she was in it and a part of it. And anyone that knew her, I think that they would say the same thing.”
Both sons, Ronald Carry and Julius Carry, preceded her in death.
A private memorial service is planned.