The following profile was prepared by The FUND for Lake George prior to its 2021 merger with the LGA.
Helen Froehlich spent only 20 of her adventurous 91 years living on Lake George. But she gave the Lake a lifetime of love in those years — and, in passing, left one of the single greatest legacies of environmental protection the Lake has ever known.
Since its establishment in 1993, the Helen V. Froehlich Foundation has bestowed more than $23 million in charitable gifts to organizations protecting Lake George.
Mrs. Froehlich’s visionary generosity plays an indispensable role in supporting The FUND for Lake George’s many research and science-guided Lake protection programs, as well as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Bolton Landing and other Lake protection organizations. The Darrin Institute is one of the world’s foremost freshwater research institutions and serves as the headquarters and research center for The Jefferson Project, the unprecedented environmental research collaboration between IBM, RPI and The FUND that has made Lake George the “Smartest Lake in the World.”
“For her, the Lake was like a battery for the soul … She had also seen the rapid destruction and mass development of wild lands throughout her long life and was concerned that overdevelopment would ruin the Lake.”
— HELENA RICE, GREAT NIECE OF HELEN FROEHLICH
“Though we never met, Mrs. Froehlich’s deep devotion to Lake George provides a wellspring of inspiration in our work to solve the intensifying problems threatening the Lake,” said Eric Siy, executive director of The FUND. “We cannot thank her enough for the tremendous vision and leadership that help power our pursuit of enduring protection.”
“Enduring” might even be considered an understatement.
John Thickens, who serves as a trustee of the Froehlich Foundation in his capacity as senior trust advisor with Northern Trust, said, “Mrs. Froehlich structured the Foundation as a perpetual charitable trust, with funds intended to be available forever and expressly for the conservation and preservation of the environment of Lake George and its immediate surrounding area, as well as the botanical gardens of Brooklyn and Chicago.”
Mrs. Froehlich was born Helen V. Voltz in Chicago in 1901 and lived there until entering Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. Soon after graduating, she married a Canadian geologist, Forrest Kerr, and moved with him to the Yukon wilderness where she developed a great love for the outdoors and outdoor recreation. When her husband was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1938, she returned to Chicago. In 1940, she married attorney Edmond Froehlich and they began a 30-year life together, during which time Mrs. Froehlich authored two children’s books under the pen name Helen V. Kerr.
In an article in the Lake George Mirror several years ago, Mrs. Froehlich’s niece, Ann Bollman Goldsmith, said that her aunt, who had no children, treated her like a daughter and began visiting Lake George when Ann and her husband moved to nearby Glens Falls in 1965. In 1968, Mrs. Froehlich purchased property on the peninsula of Taft Point, just north of Huletts Landing. In 1973, three years after the death of her husband, and at the age of 72, the Mirror article says, “Mrs. Froehlich built a breathtaking landmark house perched on the secluded three-acre peninsula, located about a mile and a half north of Huletts Landing. The property is surrounded by the lake on three sides and has Spruce Mountain as a backdrop to the east. She named the property Rivendell, for the elfin home of the Tolkien books.”
Once there, the Mirror reported, Mrs. Froehlich quickly embraced life in Huletts, frequently hiking with her dog, Frodo; cross-country skiing into her late seventies; volunteering her time with arts and cultural organizations; and even joining the volunteer fire department.
Helena Rice, Mrs. Froehlich’s great niece and the daughter of Ann Bollman Goldsmith, recently told The FUND: “Lake George represented everything that Aunt Helen loved — nature, animals, outdoor recreation and family, but also solitude. For her, the Lake was like a battery for the soul, something from which to draw strength when she needed it.”
“Aunt Helen was a woman who believed that the environment and its protection was the most important thing in the world,” Ms. Rice added. “She had traveled around the world and spent years in remote wilderness areas of North America. She had also seen the rapid destruction and mass development of wild lands throughout her long life and was concerned that overdevelopment would ruin the Lake. She would be fascinated by the technology and all the modern ways the Lake is monitored.”
Dr. Charles Boylen, professor emeritus of biological sciences at RPI and director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute from 1983-1993, recently recalled being invited to lunch with Mrs. Froehlich at her home shortly after becoming director.
“She was in her eighties, but she was very spry, very sharp and very interested in the Lake,” he said. He told her all about the research being done, and the next year and for years to come, the Institute would receive an annual check, “usually $1,000 at a time.” When Dr. Boylen would send thank you notes, “she would write back, asking questions about our work and the future of the Lake. She was keenly interested.”
Little did Dr. Boylen know how deep that interest in the Lake truly ran or the magnitude to which Mrs. Froehlich was planning for its future protection.
When Mrs. Froehlich died on Sept. 3, 1992 at the age of 91, her last will and testament laid out in language as clear as her beloved Lake George how the proceeds of her charitable trust must be used. Six months later, the Helen V. Froehlich Foundation was born.
Mrs. Froehlich’s everlasting legacy lives on, with and for the Lake that meant so much to her life.