Caton died Jan. 4 at the age of 61 after a series of strokes. Her life's work was to be there whenever help was needed in Meyersdale — from the hospital to the Catholic church to the food pantry, with both the old and young alike.
This year in February the Meyersdale Medical Center Auxiliary Players will present its 13th annual murder mystery at the firehall and Caton can be given credit for helping to start this fundraising tradition.
The first show was presented in 2001 after Caton heard about a group in Frostburg doing a murder mystery at the train depot. One night in 2000, Caton, Pam Walukas and Britta Mitchell went to Frostburg to see that local community group perform "A Revolutionary Wedding."
"The auxiliary thought perhaps it would be one way for us to make some money for the hospital," said Mitchell. "After the show, Helen insisted on going back stage and talking to the director. When she returned, to our astonishment, she had a copy of the script. It was written by a local person and after hearing Helen's plea for how our 'poor little' community hospital was struggling and needed a fundraising idea, the kind lady gave her a copy of the script."
On Feb. 10, 2001, "A Revolutionary Wedding" was performed at the Meyersdale Elks. Helen Caton, Andrew Thomas, Aaron Thomas, Natalie Thomas, Jeff Irwin and Britta Mitchell were in the first cast with Pam Walukas being the director and Kay Atwell in charge of the event.
"Everyone loved the show and that was the beginning of a fundraising tradition," said Mitchell. "We were asked to perform this play at two more events — one being for a conference at Seven Springs."
In "A Revolutionary Wedding" Caton played Miss Ruby and she appeared with her husband, Bob, in one more show. They played a couple who constantly bickered and interrupted the cast members. Most of their lines that year were ad libs and extremely funny.
"Helen loved to make people laugh even when her health problems made things uncomfortable for her. The auxiliary players appreciate her support and thank her for pioneering this annual project in our community," said Mitchell.
Caton had suffered from long-term scoliosis and had two surgeries, one of which resulted with kidney failure and necessary dialysis. While this setback caused her to be out of commission for awhile, she never lost her passion for helping others and recovered to continue that work.
In addition, Mitchell pointed out that Caton was a familiar face at the Meyersdale Medical Center Auxiliary Chinese Auction every November.
"She ran the auction, sharing jokes and funny comments," said Mitchell. "Her standup comedy was always a highlight of the event. She will be missed."
This year, the Meyersdale Medical Center Auxiliary will present its 13th annual Murder Mystery and Buffet Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 15 and 16 at the Meyersdale firehall. This year's show is 'Death Aboard the Duchess' written by Chelsea Petty.
As the travelers and crew prepare to depart on their ocean cruise, no one would expect a murderer among them. When the esteemed alchemist, Dr. Grover Cadigan, played by Dr. Jeff Irwin, goes overboard, it's up to James Bumble, played by Cory Buterbaugh, the lovable and clumsy deckhand to figure out who did it and why.
Was it the mean-spirited first mate Mr. Tibbons, played by Andrew Thomas, or the always calm Captain Cooper, played by Mae Smith? It couldn't have been the demanding rich lady, Britta Mitchell, or her overworked butler, Mike Brant. How about the reporter, played by Kendra Geiger, who is running from her mistakes?
Maybe it was the newlywed couple, Aaron and Kathy Thomas, or the beautiful lounge singer, played by Dottie Grew. There will also be a special surprise guest who will be entertaining in the ship's lounge.
Mardiann Vincent is the director and Alma Lauver is the cue person. Tickets for the show and buffet dinner can be purchased from cast members or by calling 814-444-3199 or 814-662-2587. All proceeds benefit the Conemaugh Meyersdale Medical Center.