Helen “Nini” Ackerman lived a long and wonderful life and died peacefully at home in the early hours of Tuesday, February 6th after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer. She was born April 11, 1934 and raised in Sandusky and the island of Put-In-Bay, Ohio. The second daughter of Brad and Dorothy Granfield, owners of E & K Winery, she graduated valedictorian of her high school class, attended Denison University in Granville, Ohio and graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. A college summer school term spent in Hawaii started a life long love of the Hawaiian islands and sticky buns.
Heading west to teach elementary school, she met and married Chuck Ackerman. In 1960 they bought their home in the Santa Cruz mountains where she continued to teach. After the birth of her children, she chose to become a stay-at-home mom. She was president of the PTA at both Brook Knoll Elementary and Harbor High Schools and a long-time member of The Daisy, Family Service Association and Omega Nu. In 1980 she began a real estate career successfully helping countless clients complete their financial quests to buy or sell a home. In 2016, after 36 years of service, she retired.
All her life, Helen was a dancer. Into 2017 she was still taking three advanced ballet classes a week. She loved dance, live theater and all creative forms of expression. Her home, the location of many fabulous parties and hosted celebrations, is elegant and welcoming reflecting her refined tastes. Helen also loved to travel. She and Chuck adventured all over the world, preferably by small sailing ship.
Mostly, Helen treasured her family. She delighted in the various endeavors of her children and grandchildren. She showered the whole family with homemade meals and gifts and shaped many holiday traditions. Helen never missed a birthday or a thank you note, hand written with love. She was our rock.
A true people person, she excelled at friendship. We will all miss her sense of humor, infectious laugh and optimistic attitude. Helen blended old school values with a modern Santa Cruz lifestyle. She was knowledgeable, well read and well spoken and open to new experiences.
Her family would like to thank an amazing team of doctors and support staff at Stanford Cancer Center and the Infusion Center here in Santa Cruz, especially Dr. Pamela Kunz, P.A. Theresa Wittenberg, Dr. Glenn Wong and RN Kelly Miller.
Helen is lovingly remembered by her husband of 57 years Charles Ackerman, daughter Pam Ackerman, son Todd Ackerman and wife Susan, grandchildren Derek and Kira, step-son Rusty Ackerman, sister Geraldine Hansen, nephew Jeff Hansen and sister-in-law Charlotte Ackerman. She was preceded in death by an infant daughter, Deborah, and stepdaughter Terri McKee.
A memorial service will be held later this summer, her favorite season. In Helen’s memory, we hope you will take in and help support any live performance of your choice. And when you get the chance to sit it out or dance, we hope you dance!