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Helen Fling, former WMU president, dies

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — Helen Fling, a former Woman’s Missionary Union president and former missionary, died March 1 in Texas. She was 97.

“Helen was a very special lady,” Wanda S. Lee, executive director of national WMU, said. “For those of us privileged to know her, we will remember her quick wit, enormous smile and laugh, and her deep commitment to missions and WMU.”

Fling’s profession of faith at age 8 was just the beginning of her commitment to Christ.

Born Helen Adelaide Long to missionary pastor Hubert R. Taylor Long and his wife Lucy, Fling was introduced to missions at an early age. Her mother involved her in many WMU organizations while emphasizing overcoming shyness.

She married Baptist preacher Robert (Bob) Cobb Fling in 1934 at the age of 19. Fling attended Baylor University, but while raising their daughter she completed her degree via correspondence courses at East Texas State University.

The young mother of two served with her husband during his pastorates in Natchitoches, La.; Grand Saline, Troup, Ennis and Cleburne, Texas; and Seminole, Okla.

The Flings also served with the former Southern Baptist Home Mission Board in New York and the former Foreign Mission Board in Munich, Germany.

Over the years, Fling served in several prominent WMU posts including recording secretary for national WMU, 1957–63; president of national WMU, 1963–69; and president of New York WMU, 1971–76.

In addition, Fling made history as the first woman to hold a Texas Baptist post when she was elected second vice president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in 1967.

In the 1960s, she wrote two books that encouraged the advancement of missions, “Enlistment for Missions” and “Changes and Choices.”

When her husband retired from the pastorate in 1977, Fling moved to Birmingham, Ala., and served on the national WMU staff as promotion coordinator for development of WMU work in “new work” areas. She guided the founding of several state WMU organizations, including Nevada, Wyoming, New England and Minnesota-Wisconsin.

After her husband’s death in 1982 and her retirement in 1984, Fling continued to be an active member of Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham and a champion for missions involvement through WMU. In 2001, she moved to Texas to be near her daughter.

Fling is survived by her daughter, Sheila Fling of Driftwood, Texas, and her son, Michael Fling of Bloomington, Ind.

A memorial service was held March 6 at Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham with a burial at Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Sheila Fling Scholarship at Texas State University or to the WMU Foundation.
Julie Walters writes for Woman’s Missionary Union.