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Remembering Palm Desert swim teacher Helene Barker

Helene Barker

The Coachella Valley’s swimming community was mourning the death of a beloved swim teacher and friend Saturday. Helene Barker taught local children how to swim for decades. 

“One of her great moments was to watch her swimming with dolphins," said Rocky Barker, a cousin. "She was at home, it was like she and the porpoises belonged together."

“Her legacy is going to be in the faces of those children, thousands of children," said Barker. "I didn’t realize that her dedication to that had such an impact, and that's going to be there as long as those kids live.”

According to the family, Helene Barker suffered a severe stroke on Monday, June 22nd, while getting out of the pool at her Palm Desert home. 

Barker was taken to Eisenhower Health, where she later died on Thursday, June 26th.

Barker leaves behind a legacy many will cherish having taught Coachella Valley children how to swim for more than 20-years.

One mother recalling the impact the instructor had on her daughter.

“My daughter can tread water for two minutes. That requires patience and strength, and that's stuff that we definitely learned from Helene-- and it wasn’t a drill type exercise," said Linh Young.

Two of Barker's students spoke about their favorite part of her class.

“Dive for the rings," said Bailey Young, her student.

“I like touching the bottom and I also got to feel what was on the bottom of the pool," said Ryley Young, her former student.

Barker began her swimming career when she became a lifeguard and swim instructor at the age of 16 at the naval base in Japan where her father was stationed.

Her family said Barker’s love of swimming started even earlier.

“She spent a summer with my grandparents at our farm and we had a pool out back and she started swimming in the pool all summer and she loved that," said Barker.

“To do that with an open heart-- not everyone has that or can do that," said Young. "I want her to know that we appreciate it so much and what she has done for the community, she will be greatly missed."

If you want to remember Helene’s commitment to teaching swimming you can contribute to the USA Swimming Foundation, C/O Stephen Little, 42161 Beacon Hill, Palm Desert, CA. 92211-5108. Steve Little, founder of Claro Pool Services will match the first $1,000 donated. 

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Dani Romero


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