April 20, 2020
She was born Helen Voukidou in Corinth, Greece on September 6, 1933. The second of four siblings, she grew up in the Peloponnese near Sparta, enduring the Nazi occupation of Greece, and then the depredations of the Greek Civil War. An inability to find work after high school led her to the United States for higher education in 1954; after graduating from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois in 1958, she moved to New York City to work as a bank teller.
Her future husband, George, had also come to the States in the mid-fifties, to train as a medical doctor. She had met him in Sparta after World War II when they were both still teenagers, their families introduced to each other by George’s aunt Iphigenia. In the States, they began writing each other; he visited her in New York. She moved to Louisville, Kentucky in the fall of 1959 to attend graduate school at the University of Louisville, where he was interning. They married in 1960.
While George studied to become one of the first specialists in surgery of the hand, Helen pursued a master’s degree in business administration. With the arrival of their first child, John, in 1961, Helen suspended her studies for a year, but before she could resume, a family move would intervene. While their families were both Peloponnesian, George was born and raised in the Greek community in Wad Medani, Sudan; his plan all along was to return to live in his home country. As they prepared to move to Sudan in 1962, Helen arranged to conduct her thesis work with oversight from a professor from the University of Michigan who would be in Khartoum at the same time. Louisville, however, would not allow her to do the work remotely, forcing Helen to abandon her degree. Nevertheless, her effort was remarkable at a time when it was rare, if not unheard of, for a woman to earn an MBA.
After only 15 months in Sudan, Helen and George emigrated permanently back to the United States. By 1965 they had settled in Gary, Indiana, where George opened a hand surgery practice months before their second child, Stephen, was born. After she recovered from childbirth, Helen visited her husband’s practice and found it so disorganized that she assumed responsibility for its financial administration, which she oversaw for 39 years until George’s retirement in 2004.
After two more children, Gregory and Angela, Helen would return to school in 1973, attending the Harrington Institute of Interior Design in Chicago. When she graduated in 1977, she opened a store at 80th Place in Merrillville called Helen Volan Interiors, out of which she also began a practice in interior design. The store closed in the eighties, but her practice, later renamed Ariston Homes, would last for decades, expanding to the custom design and construction of entire houses -- interiors and exteriors -- from scratch. Many residences in Northwest Indiana bear her stamp, including one in the Briar Ridge community in Schererville where she and her husband would live the rest of their lives.
Helen was a consummate host who threw great parties. She commanded respect but also earned it. She baked vasilopitas as easily as she drew up blueprints or tallied balance sheets -- there was always an electric mixer handy, a tape measure, a printing calculator. She brooked no nonsense. She dressed impeccably. She was a doer, always busy. She could pack anything. She was irrepressible, inquisitive, big-hearted, loyal, and true.
Helen was preceded in death by her parents, George and Maria (“Marika”) Voukidis of Athens, Greece; her daughter, Angela Maria Volan, of Chicago; her sisters Niki Vouloumanou of Kifisia, Greece, and Lily Kerhoula of Maroussi, Greece; and her husband, George John Volan, of Schererville.
She is survived, and greatly missed, by her sons John Volan of Belmont, Mass.; Stephen Volan, of Bloomington, Ind.; and Gregory Volan, and daughter-in-law Katarina Topalov, both of Evanston, Ill.; her grandson Isaac Henry George Volan, of Belmont; her granddaughter Angela Lucia Volan and grandson Henry Alexander Volan, both of Evanston; her brother Constantine Voukidis and sister-in-law Betty (Arges) Voukidis, of Highland, Ind.; many cousins, nieces and nephews, and many, many dear friends and acquaintances, both in Greece and the United States. May her memory be eternal.
While Helen did not contract or suffer from COVID-19, due to public health restrictions from the pandemic, her wake and funeral service on Friday will be closed to the public but streamed online. The burial service at Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville will be private. The family will also hold an interactive visitation online from 2-5 pm Saturday. For details of how to attend these services, how to send expressions of condolence, or how to make other inquiries, please send a message to helen AT volan DOT org for an automatic response. (If it does not appear immediately, please check your spam folder.)
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in her name be made to the Food Pantry at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 8000 Madison St., Merrillville, Indiana, 46410.
Calumet Park Funeral Chapel
7535 Taft Street, Merrillville, IN 46410 VIEW MAP