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Helen Swan Padberg

Helen Swan Padberg

Helen Swan Padberg entered this world in 1919 the third offspring of Frank P and Birdie B Rudell Swan and entered eternal rest in 2017. Raised in the new state of Oklahoma her hometown bordered on what was no man’s land 10 years previously. Music and family were the focus of her life. Helen excelled in piano lessons with her aunt and then began to study violin. She provided performed numerous recitals before leaving for Stephens College where she focused on the violin, was a featured soloist with the college symphony, and joined the faculty string quartet. Matriculating to the University of Oklahoma for a Bachelor of Music, she was honored with the Holmberg Award as the most outstanding student in the school of music. Persisting with musical training at Northwestern University, Chicago, she was awarded a Master of Music and became a featured soloist with the Northwestern Symphony, highlighted by a virtuoso performance at the commencement concert. Pi Kappa Lambda, an honorary music fraternity elected her to membership. Post-graduate violin study continued at Music Mountain in Connecticut and with Jacques Gordon in New York City. More recently, she learned to play the Harp as well.

While at Northwestern she met and married a fellow Oklahoman, Frank T Padberg, who practiced Neurosurgery in Little Rock and subsequently served as Director of Fellowship and Graduate Medical Education at the American College of Surgeons, Chicago. They shared a love of music as he was also an accomplished vocalist who declined a professional music career to pursue medicine. Both husband and wife were well known for their impeccable style while maintaining dual residence in Arkansas and Illinois.

The elegance of her music and character complemented each other. Helen pursued an active musical career and toured with the USO during the Second World War. She played violin with orchestras in New York, Chicago, and Oklahoma City which included performances in Carnegie Hall, Orchestra Hall, and The Chicago Civic Opera House. Her talent was recognized when she was designated concertmaster with the Chicago West Suburban Symphony. She was a founding member of the Little Rock Chamber Music Society, and served as concertmaster of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. A unique contribution was her role as concertmaster for a television series featuring Marjorie Lawrence, Soprano with the Metropolitan Opera; Helen recruited a trio consisting of herself on violin, Mary Head on piano, and Jean Adams on Cello for these broadcasts. She offered private instruction in both piano and violin. Professional memberships include the American Federation of Musicians, American Harp Society, and Mu Phi Episilon (a music fraternity).
Helen was in demand as a volunteer leader, serving her community as a Cub Scout Den leader, Girl Scout leader, and Vacation Bible School teacher. She served as a Deacon, Elder, and/or Trustee at 2nd Presbyterian in Little Rock and 4th Presbyterian in Chicago. She served as President of the Arkansas Medical Society Auxiliary, the Pulaski County Medical Auxiliary, The Little Rock Aesthetic Club, the Pi Beta Phi Alumnae Club, Pulaski County Board of Directors for the Visiting Nurses Association, The American Opera Society (Chicago), and International Women’s Associates. She also contributed to The Women’s Committee for Public Affairs in Arkansas and served for decades as Historian/Archivist for the Arkansas Medical Society Auxiliary and the American Opera Society. Helen is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, served as a docent at the Newberry Library (Chicago), and was a member of the Stephens College Alumnae Association Board.

Helen was predeceased by her husband Frank and her older siblings, Frank Rudell Swan, and Ruth Swan Crabbe. Her surviving family includes daughter Kristen, a real estate professional in Denver CO and son Frank Jr, a Professor of Vascular Surgery at Rutgers, New Jersey Medical School, Newark NJ.; Frank Jr is married to Sharon Smith. Helen’s grandson F Thomas Padberg III recently established practice as a physical therapist in Tennessee. She is especially grateful to the two caregivers who facilitated her tenacious grasp on the twilight of her life: Keisha Barnum and Brenda Lloyd. Helen stated that she had “two strong desires as she grew up: to play the violin and to have a family”. This elegant and loving woman’s life story exceeded her youthful expectations.

A memorial service is scheduled Monday, November 13 at 1:30 PM at the 2nd Presbyterian church. In lieu of flowers, please direct any memorials in her honor to the 2nd Presbyterian Church, 600 Pleasant Valley Drive, Little Rock, Arkansas. Arrangements are made under the direction of Ruebel Funeral Home and an online guestbook will be maintained at

Condolence Book

"An amazing woman has joined her husband. With grace, intelligence and sincere warmth and appreciation, she was a joy to spend time and while a long full life she had, Helen Padberg will be missed. She is a testament to strength and dignity. Our deepest condolences to her son and daughter, family and friends. Peace be with you."
Chris and Jo Harkins | Little Rock, AR

"Dear Kristen and Frank,

I am so sorry to hear about your Mother. Such a beautiful picture and wonderful write up for a beautiful and wonderful woman. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. As always,

with love,
Sally Sockwell "

Sally Ann Sockwell | New York, NY

"Mrs. Padberg was a great woman of God and loved her family. It was a honor to take care of Mrs. Padberg . I learned so much from her. She had became my family and friend. I'm going to miss you 😗😗😗😗😗. Love Keisha and Brenda "
Keisha Barnum | North Little Rock, AR

"Kristen, I just want to tell you how sorry I am that your mother has passed away. I only saw her a few times but could immediately tell that she was an extremely kind, intelligent, strong woman. She truly had an amazing life and l know you will miss her greatly."
Anne Magee | Little Rock, AR

"Kristen and Dr. Frank, Mrs. Padberg was a wonderful person and such an example of how to be lady. She never spoke a cross word to me in over 20 years of working with her. I will miss her, and wish you comfort in your time of grieving your mother. She certainly had an exceptional life, worth remembering!"
Sandy Ledbetter | Sherwood, AR

"Dear Kristen, Frank and Tom-

What a lovely picture of Aunt Helen. A very gracious lady. I am often struck by how much she and Ruth looked alike - did you think so?
I enjoyed reading this and delighted to learn of some her (many) accomplishments I was unaware of. Will always remember her fondly.
Love, Cinda and Tom"

Cinda Crabbe MacKinnon | , CA

"Condolences to the Padberg family. Mrs. Helen Padberg was a sweet lady and will be greatly missed. What a blessing to have known her and Dr. Frank.

With sincerest sympathy,
Jimmy and Christine Tallant"

Jimmy and Christine Tallant | Little Rock, AR

"The the Padberg Family.
Sending our deepest sympathy. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this time of loss.
Department of Vascular Surgery"

Rutgers Vascular Surgery Team | Newark, NJ

"Helen was such a lovely person. She always made excellent contributions in her Stephens alumnae activities. We really enjoyed her participation on the Stephens College Alumnae Association Board. Her smile always put people at ease. Her ideas were always appreciated.

I remember her playing music one alumnae weekend with her roommate from college. It was a wonderful treat to hear her music.

Kristen and Frank, we are so sorry about your loss. She was such a lovely person. She will be missed by many."

Mary Josie and Bruce Blanchard | Washington, DC

"With deepest sympathy with the loss of your mother. God bless your family.

Regina Tyson
Department of Surgery Newark, NJ "

Regina Tyson | Newark, NJ

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