Helen “J.P.” McDonald was born on June 16, 1950 in Quanah. She passed away on the morning of August 13, 2020 in Lufkin, Texas surrounded by family and grandchildren. She was raised in the loving home of Warren and Helen Louise White Pryor in Childress.
From an early age J.P. displayed a strong spirit for life. At 5, according to family members, she was known to call a cab to get around town, and in one case summoned the cab driver to pick up a new doll for her at the store.
Her parents exposed J.P. to many exciting and refined activities as they travelled regularly in the region, from eastern New Mexico to urban venues in Texas. Helen and J.P. went on several adventures into Mexico which helped shape her independent nature as she often recalled with fond memories.
J.P. was an early and lifelong avid reader and over time developed a particular passion for biographies of individuals who shaped cultural events, particularly in the areas of politics and society, with a fondness for groundbreaking women leaders.
She also had a voracious appetite for books on cooking cultivated by her mother who was a superb cook, as was J.P. She warmly recalled her adventures with her uncle Rex exploring roads and byways in the Panhandle.
After Warren passed, the family moved to Dallas where Helen continued to give J.P. opportunities to attend cultural events which molded and developed her passion for cultural enrichment, inclusion and equality that influenced her world view throughout her life.
J.P.’s professional career with art started in Tulsa, Okla. as director of a company focused on fine Native American Art. After representing artists, she started as curator of the Gershon and Rebecca Fester Gallery of Jewish Art.
Upon moving to Galveston, J.P. became director of the Galveston Art Guild, an alternative art space where she curated works of an array of outstanding artists. Then she served as curator of works and became a dear friend of Latane Temple for years.
Later, she was hired as the curator for the Galveston Arts Center mounting stimulating exhibitions while continuing to build her vast network of artists. In 1991, she was hired as the executive director of the Museum of East Texas where her legacy includes Art Camp, Dinner and Dancing Under the Stars, Festival of Trees.
J.P brought truly unique exhibits of local, national and internationally known artists to Lufkin such as Ruby Yount, a collaboration which resulted in the publication of The Primitive Art of a Native Texan, the John James Audubon show, Dick Wray, Richard Stout and Dr. John Cody exhibit of Luna moths, among others that culturally enlighten all who entered the museum for free – a standard J.P. ardently championed.
Her regular column in the Lufkin Daily News lauded the volunteers and board members of not only the Museum but the Museum Guild and the Junior League of Lufkin for their dedication to the museum mission, but sprinkled in commentary about her love of birds and the environment.
J.P. was devoted to the Museum and the quality of life for young and old alike.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Rex and Barbara Pryor; cousin David Davenport; and ex-in-laws, Bob and Jane Kilcrease.
She is survived by her husband Darrel; daughter Kendall Kilcrease Simpson; grandchildren Ember and Amaris Goff and Samuel and Chloe Flack; aunt Charlene Poteet of Wellington; cousins Judy Larson, Carolyn and Von Maynard, Nick and Juanema Christensen, Ricky and Paulette Cawthon, Randy Cawthon, Dana and Curtis Kent, Shelly and Sam Allen, Patricia Braafladt, Portia and Jeff Maloney and Marli and Chris Couch among other nieces, nephews and cousins.
A private family memorial is planned, and a celebration of life will be held at a future date. Arrangements are by Carroway Funeral Home, Lufkin.
In lieu of flowers, a J.P. McDonald memorial fund for the Museum of East Texas has been established. For details please contact the museum or send donations to Museum of East Texas, 503 North Second Street, Lufkin, TX 75901.
Memories and condolences may be added at carrowayfuneralhome.com.