Growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, the five McNulty kids never knew who might be at their dinner table from one night to the next.
Their mom, Helen McNulty, a Spanish teacher and student adviser at the University of Minnesota, loved to invite foreign students into their home.
“She really opened our eyes that there was more to the world than our street in Minneapolis,” said son Tim McNulty.
She even took the whole family — all five kids and husband Bob McNulty (a sports arena developer and one of the original owners of the Minnesota North Stars hockey team) — on study-abroad adventures while she worked as an adviser to the Student Project for Amity Among Nations program.
“She and my father had a sit-down, and she said, ‘Lets take the family,’ ” said Tim McNulty.
They spent months living in Peru and Ireland while she worked as a student adviser, he said.
Helen McNulty died Jan. 4 at age 97.
She was born in Minneapolis, the oldest of six.
She attended high school at the Academy of Holy Angels and continued her studies at the University of Minnesota.
After graduation, she worked at the Peruvian embassy in Washington, D.C., before returning to the University of Minnesota to teach Spanish in the years after World War II.
One day after class, Helen walked across the street to the Varsity Cafe, where she sat at a table with her future husband and mutual friends.
She happened to mention that her carpool arrangement had fallen through. The two began chatting and learned that they lived near each other.
Bob offered to give Helen a ride the next day.
“He picked me up the next day, too. And the next day, and the next day,” she said in a family video recorded with great-granddaughter Lydia a few years ago.
“They had a very wonderful and blessed life together,” said her son Jim. “They were quite a team.”
In the family video, when Lydia asked what her great-grandmother was most proud of, Helen quickly replied, “My family.”
She also said that she was grateful to be able to do so much traveling. “That gives meaning to your life,” she said.
Helen went on to earn her master’s in Latin American studies at the University of Minnesota and started a consulting firm called Intercultural Communications.
As Minnesota-based companies like 3M and General Mills expanded internationally, McNulty would set up seminars with experts from the countries where employees would be doing business or living, her sons said.
In her 90s, Helen continued learning, keeping informed about international affairs. She also practiced yoga and was intent on improving her chess game.
She was involved with many international groups, including the Minnesota International Center, the Committee on Foreign Relations Minnesota and the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas.
She was also an active bridge player and loved being a part of a women’s group called the “Tuesday Talkers.”
“She was active in anything she could find,” said Jim.
In addition to sons Jim of Waconia and Tim of Excelsior, McNulty is survived by her brother, John Linsmayer of Golden Valley; daughters Marran McNulty of Medina, Jane McNulty of La Crescent, Minn., and Cynthia McNulty Coughlin of Edina; eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Services have been held.