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Children put mom on lifetime path of community service in Payson

Helen Scott adjusts one of the antique chairs inside a building she loves \\\\— the Peteetneet Academy in Payson.
Helen Scott adjusts one of the antique chairs inside a building she loves \\\\— the Peteetneet Academy in Payson.
Dan Lund, for the Deseret Morning News

PAYSON — When Helen Scott signed her children up for the marching band, she didn't know she was also signing on for a lifetime of community service.

A scheduler at the Peteetneet Academy of Arts, Scott, 73, is one of the few remaining original members of the committee that worked to save the century-old school building from the wrecking ball in 1988. Now restored, the landmark Peteetneet serves as the focus of community art shows, a museum and special events.

Like many mothers, she was thrust into community involvement by her children, Elena and Craig, who have long since left the nest. Both were in the Payson High School marching band.

"I supported my children. That's how I got started," she said.

Scott remembers her first involvement in community work as publicity director for the Payson Community Theater some 30 years ago. "It was a learning experience," she said.

A regular at City Council meetings, she keeps up on the comings and goings of local politics. She also works with the Payson Justice Court, overseeing people sentenced to community service. She makes the assignments.

"I meet a lot of interesting people that way," she says.

"She's like the Eveready Bunny — she keeps going and going," said Karen Taylor, who also serves on the Peteetneet board. "I don't know what keeps driving her. She just has a love for it. What she does, she does 110 percent."

Scott cut new ground for a small-town community-minded resident. Dressed in a Scottish kilt — she calls it a real Scott kilt — Scott served as the first female chieftain for the annual Scottish Festival in July. She led the procession of clans down Main Street to Memorial Park where the event has been held each year for the past 20.

She's been actively involved with the festival since its inception and was on its original board.

She was also a Scout trainer in the Nebo District in the 1970s.

Scott has refused to let a speech impediment that has afflicted her since birth slow her hectic pace.

"She doesn't let it get in her way," Taylor said.

"I would have been shushed (in another community)," Scott said. But not in Payson, where residents and leaders welcome involvement. Show an ability, she says, and community leaders overlook shortcomings.

Scott credits her community for accepting her — "they know what to expect. They know I'll follow through," she said.

"Opportunities came to me that would not have happened somewhere else."