“The Quiet Helper”
In 1910, Rhoda Walker was born into a prominent family in New York City. Her father was a senior partner of White and Case lawyers, and from family photographs, it appears that she and her four sisters enjoyed a privileged childhood.
Rhoda was educated at the Chapin School in NYC and Bryn Mawr College, and then studied music in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. In 1931, she married John French Jr. (Mary Billings French Rockefeller’s brother), with whom she had three children. In 1948, she moved to Woodstock, Vermont, and seven years later, after the dissolution of her marriage to John French, she married Frank H. Teagle Jr. of Woodstock.
1. Rhoda’s parents, Roberts and Edna Walker, on honeymoon in 1904
2. Rhoda with her first fish
3. Rhoda and her sisters and parents
4. Rhoda’s family picnicking in 1918 with Cadillac
5. Rhoda as a flower girl
6. Rhoda in a WWII publicity photo for papers in NY
7. Rhoda’s father, Roberts Walker, and daughters
8. Scarsdale, New York (Four Way Lodge)
9. Rhoda and her sisters by fountain
10. Rhoda and her four sisters
11. Rhoda and her dolls, Roberta and Eloise
Rhoda never stopped learning, and she never stopped helping others. Everywhere you looked, she was there… reshelving books at the school library, taking minutes at the schoolboard meetings, serving sandwiches to donors at Bloodmobile drives, teaching students how to read, rescuing undernourished cows, running the Girl Scout House, and holding weekly craft sessions for all the Brownies in town.
The Vermont Standard dubbed her “The Quiet Helper,” while others described Rhoda as “the most unselfish person in the world.
From the time she moved to Woodstock, Rhoda was involved in community affairs. In 1979, Rhoda - who had volunteered for years at the high school - was asked to deliver the commencement speech. An excerpt from this speech is shown to the right. In it, she emphasized the importance of learning.
Rhoda went on to say:
“Don’t let anything keep you from helping or at least reaching out to another human being. You, too, will be enriched… There will always be someone or something that needs your attention. You can be ears for the deaf, eyes for the sightless, or limbs for the paraplegic… If you can do what needs to be done and withal have a sense of usefulness, you’ll receive unexpected and infinite riches.”
While some commencement speakers share grand ideas that they feel would be good for others to follow, Rhoda Teagle spoke from the heart and followed her own advice.