Helen Levin; Quadriplegic Who Worked to Help Others

Times Staff Writer

Helen Levin, a quadriplegic who viewed herself simply as an average homemaker-mother who went back to school after her sons were born, died Sunday.

A psychiatric social worker and a spokesperson for many of her fellow handicapped, she was 60 and died in her Bel-Air home of respiratory problems.

Mrs. Levin was a victim of the polio epidemic of 1951 who began her recuperation slowly, she said in a 1983 Times interview--wanting to be involved and useful and wanting "the blessing of not being bored."

She eventually became a staff therapist at the Suicide Prevention Center's Life Clinic and president of the board of the Westside Community for Independent Living.

Despite her handicaps, she ran a successful household, raised two sons, allowed herself to be lugged to football games ("and I don't even like football") and traveled the world. Credit for all this, she said in 1983, belonged to her electric wheelchair, which gave her independence.

Her husband of 43 years, Jack Levin, said that the entire quality of her life really changed when she started reading to blind college students. "It made her realize that even though she was quadriplegic, she could still do things for other people. And that realization led to getting her master's at USC, to having a career."

She also became one of the first volunteers at the Westside Community for Independent Living, which provides such services for the handicapped as finding housing, transportation and career and vocational training. There, said June Kailes, executive director of the community, "she bettered and enhanced the lives of hundreds of people who never met her, never knew her name."

She also served as head of the Architectural Barriers Committee of the Los Angeles City Council for the Handicapped, a group that helped improve access to municipal buildings.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Levin is survived by a son, John Levin of San Francisco; her parents, Jay and Rose Phillips of Minnesota, and three grandchildren. An elder son, Tom, died in 1983. The family is requesting donations to the Westside Community for Independent Living.

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