Helen Vause was born in Kobe, Japan in May 1915, far from the killing fields of  World War I. She was the second of five children, having two brothers, Ryogi and Heinrich, and two sisters, Maria and Chrissie. Her father was an Anglo-German chemist working for Bayer named George B. Her mother was Japanese. Helen's mother was ostracized by her Japanese family as a consequence of her marriage to a Westerner.

I know little of Helen's childhood life in Japan. The lived in the countryside on the hills overlooking Kobe. Helen had a Russian friend named Maria, of roughly the same age. Maria came by tragedy when she fell into a country composting/fertilizer pit. The resulting infections permanently undermined her health. The two oldest children were musically inclined. Ryogi played violin and Helen played the piano. This created a bond between them that lasted all their lives. Helen's love of music and the piano also persisted all her life, despite the many times she later recalled that her piano instructor would beat her fingertips with a small paddle as punishment for mistakes she made at the keyboard.

Helen would remember years later, when admonishing her son not to waste food, that her mother would tell her as a child that for each kernel of rice she left on her plate, she would lose sight in one eye. Even thought the B's had plenty, they had been through one World War and would eventually survive another. They had seen privation. This taught frugality, even while living in plenty.

In her teens, Helen was sent to boarding school in Great Britain for education and musical training. She was miserable in the foreign country. Unwilling or unable to eat, she became anorexic and sickly. Rather than bring her back to back to Japan, her parents sent Ryogi to Britain to provide emotional support. As a result, their musical bond grew. Decades after World War II destroyed all sense of the normal, they would reminisce fondly of playing in school and playing to entertain the family later, in Germany.

The 1930's found the B family in Berlin. Helen was studying music. This was a time of growth for the Nazi movement in Germany. The Nazi's were profoundly populist and Helen did not like them. She would recall with evident distaste how she, as a daughter of a professional, was required to dance with blue collar workers at company social events as a result of policies the Nazis were promoting. Thirty years later, Heinrich would wryly remember that young Hitler was viewed as a joke, until it was too late. Helen had a Jewish girlfriend, daughter of a neighboring family. She would recount that late one night men in uniforms broke down her neighbor's door and removed everyone inside. The unfortunate family was never seen or heard from again. Those who remained behind were too afraid to inquire as to the family's fate.

I was later told by her sister Chrissie that Helen was engaged and very much in love with a young German Luftwaffe pilot. Helen only ever spoke obliquely of him to me, but I once saw a pre-World War II photograph of her with a very well dressed, handsome, Nordic male. By the care with which she attended to the photograph, I can now only presume it was him. Chrissie also told me that he was shot down in combat during the war and perished.

 The outbreak of World War II found the B family on a steamship leaving Bremerhaven, Germany, for the presumed safety of Japan. However, they were divided. Ryogi and Heinrich remained in Germany while Helen, Maria, and Chrissie accompanied the elder Beuthers to the home of their births. On board, Helen met a passionate, idealistic, young Italian, Giovanni Battista Repetto. He was the single scion of a Genoese shipping family and completely given over to the the youthful view of the new world order the fascist movements were bringing to Europe and the world. Giovanni debarked in Genoa and pass out of Helen's life and thoughts completely, until 1960.

 War reached the B in Japan, though by living in the countryside, they were spared the famine and bombing that the cities endured. Helen would recall years later that they would told that a single burning cigarette at night was enough guiding light to bring the bombing raids upon them. She also remembered how the family would sit on the hill side watching the aerial dog fights over Kobe.

Upon the end of World War II, the B's were re-united in Germany, now in Heidelberg. Helen was teaching German and music when she met a young American serviceman who was both a pilot and a musician. They were married and she returned with him to Tallahassee where Helen began her master's program in music at Florida State University. Two year's after the birth of his son, the young American died in an airplane accident while he was the pilot. Helen never flew commercially.

 Life as a mixed race widow with a small son in Deep South Tallahassee could not have  been easy for Helen.