Helen Arnold remembered as community activist

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter



As a student more than 80 years ago, Helen Arnold helped create the landscape along Main Street we see today.

She helped plant some of the trees at Shumway Junior High School — now the campus of the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics.

Her daughter, Janice Arnold, recalled when her mom would walk to school with her.

“She would say how proud she was that she helped plant those trees as seedlings,” Janice Arnold said.

In the following decades, in their roles as neighborhood leaders, Helen and Phil Arnold continued to influence the community.

Helen Arnold died on Dec. 6, at her home. She was 97.

Friends are remembering Helen and Phil — who died Jan. 14, 2012 — as grass-roots community activists while they operated Arnold Map Service from their home.

Phil’s role in the community is recognized with Phil Arnold Way, a street just south of City Hall.

While she didn’t get that kind of recognition, “Helen’s neighborhood association work paved the way for what we have today — over 60 active associations,” Vancouver City Councilor Jack Burkman said.

“She helped create the first one — Arnada,” Burkman said. “More importantly, her efforts became the model of what a neighborhood association was all about.”

Eileen Cowen, president of the Hough Neighborhood Association, noted that the Arnolds originated the position she holds now.

“Phil was the first president of the Hough Neighborhood Association,” Cowen said. “Helen obviously was by her husband’s side and very active herself.”

That activism led to some unusual road trips for the map-service owners. When a massive supermarket was proposed along Main Street and Fourth Plain, the Arnolds were among the opponents. Helen — whose name was on the lawsuit — and Phil visited almost every Northwest store in that supermarket chain. They photographed the rear of each supermarket and its surrounding neighborhood to show what might be in the Main Street community’s future.

“I saw the photographs. The backs of those stores were horrible,” Janice Arnold said. “They made a compelling case.”

The supermarket project never happened, saving that area for a more down-home role, Janice Arnold said. Her mother’s “stewardship and vision helped shape what is now Uptown Village.”

Janice Arnold said that her mother “was not always on the popular side of development issues, and because of that, many people thought she was totally against development, but that is not the case.

“She just wanted appropriate development,” Janice Arnold said. “That meant a set of standards that included criteria that satisfied neighbors and developers, and that balanced open space as part of the equation.”