Helena Geraldine Lu-Affatt was born in Manzanilla on the island of Trinidad. She was the youngest of John Phillip and Fanny Ann’s 9 children. Helena grew up in a busy, loving Chinese family and learned much from her wise parents and talented siblings. She cherished memories of her happy childhood growing up in the tropics: harvesting the family’s cocoa farm, fishing and crabbing in the Caribbean, planning and taking part in the annual Carnival. A serious and intelligent student, Helena graduated with honors from high school in Port-of-Spain and worked in accounting until she was accepted to the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, MD in 1944. From there she graduated as a Registered Nurse with high honors. Helena received scholarships for post-graduate study in Pediatrics in the Care of the Premature Infant. For the duration of WWII, she was a member of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps.
Following completion of her post-graduate work, Helena traveled to Edinburgh to pursue a 2-part course in Midwifery, becoming a registered and state certified midwife (S.C.M.) in Scotland, in 1949. She was disciplined, accomplished, inquisitive, and ambitious. Since her youth, Helena’s dream was to work as a Mother and Child Health Practitioner in China, her ancestors’ homeland. She secured a position at the Peking Union Medical Center, however, the advancing Communist armies in China thwarted those plans. Fate intervened and she accepted a staff nurse position at the American University Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, where the director of Nursing was a fellow JHU alumna. Helena was a fearless pioneer, moving to the Middle East as a single woman, living and working independently, learning a new language, and managing on her own. In fact, prior to landing in Beirut, Helena embarked on a cycling adventure through Europe.
A year later, Helena became a Clinical Instructor at the University’s School of Public Health, and was tasked to develop, implement, and direct a program in Maternal and Child Health, specifically for medical students in their 3rd year. Under the OB Dept of the University Hospital & Medical School, these students would attend patients and render complete OB care and deliver them in their homes. It was during this time that Helena met her future husband, Amal Kurban, then a medical student. They were married in 1953 and Lebanon became her adopted home until their immigration to the U.S. many years later.
Helena went on to become a Nurse Specialist, working for the WHO in their Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office. She was assigned as Nursing Consultant for the government of Libya to assess the Nursing facilities in that country. By 1955, the family settled in Lebanon. She worked part-time as Director of and Instructor at the Home Delivery Service of the University Hospital. Throughout the years, and in addition to bringing up and caring for their children, Helena was involved in the scientific editing of medical articles, journals, and books.
In 1985, Dr. & Mrs. Kurban emigrated to Boston, MA where her husband was Professor of Dermatology at Boston University Medical Center. Never one to sit idly, Helena took lessons in piano and voice, Tai Chi, reading and writing Mandarin Chinese, and painting. She went back to school, graduating in 1992 from Suffolk University with a Bachelor’s degree (Magna Cum Laude) in French and honors in English.
Helena always had a knack for languages; she could converse in 7 or 8 and would not shy away from practicing a new tongue. Her love of learning continued into her 90’s, when she began harp lessons. She was fit and athletic, having played field hockey and tennis in her youth. She continued with yoga and martial arts well into her last decade. She had a superb green thumb, turning their Boston apartment into a mini-arboretum. She had a talent for cooking and was widely knowledgeable in a variety of subjects.
A true global citizen, Helena moved from Massachusetts to Dubai in 2014 where her youngest son resides but returned to the U.S. in 2017 to stay with her middle son in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, her last home.
Above all, Helena was a devoted wife, a loving and caring mother and grandmother. She was a perfectionist at heart, holding herself – before others – to the highest standards.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. Amal K. Kurban. She leaves behind a loving family of 4 children: Margaret, Andrew, Ramsay, & Suhail and their families, including 12 beloved grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren – in addition to nieces, nephews, and many relatives in all parts of the world.
Helena taught her family valuable lessons and gave selflessly to others. She died surrounded by love.
Funeral services will be held privately at the convenience of the family. Thompson Funeral Home, Inc. is entrusted with the arrangements. Please share your memories with the family at our online guest book at thompsonfuneralhomelebanon.com
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