• Long Beach Breeze

Meet Your Neighbor: Helen Zito

By Will Brown

In 2005, Helen Zito retired after twelve years working in a director position for BellSouth in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She made the decision to retire after the telecommunications company merged with AT&T, but Zito quickly decided she was too young to be retiring. She began a second career with Ochsner Health doing some part time work at first before being named Ochsner’s Director of Alumni Affairs ten years ago. Shortly after settling into this position, Zito and her husband moved from their hometown of New Orleans to Long Beach, where Zito has continued to work for Ochsner while setting out to pursue her dream to be an artist.

“I’ve always been a crafty, artsy person,” Zito said. “I love my painting. I paint on silk, and that’s sort of my passion.”

Zito first decided to pursue silk painting fifteen years ago and traveled to Mendocino, California, to take lessons. The process of silk painting involves stretching out a piece of white silk and painting on it with dyes. The piece of silk is steamed to let the dyes set, and then it is washed several times with several different iterations. The final product can be anything from a scarf to a pillow to a piece of wall art.

Zito frequented art shows throughout Louisiana and the Gulf Coast for a number of years, and her artwork is displayed at Gallery 782 in Biloxi and The Shops at Century Hall in Bay St. Louis. Zito also creates art pieces such as scarves and shawls by using painted silk and fusing wool fibers together, a process known as Nuno felting.

Zito and her husband moved to Long Beach in 2017, with the hopes of retiring in the community. While neither have retired yet, Zito was drawn to the friendliness and tranquility that Long Beach had to offer.

“It’s quieter than most of the Gulf communities,” Zito said. “The people are so friendly, and it’s always felt like home.”

Zito says she loves living in Long Beach and watching the growth of the community, as well as being on the beach and in close proximity to all the amenities the Gulf Coast has to offer.

“We love the beach area here and all the family activities that go on,” Zito said. “If we want to explore the casinos or nightlife, we can go somewhere else, but we like living in the quiet community.”

Q: What is your favorite things about Long Beach?

A: “A big part is the people, and we love the beach.”

Q: What are your favorite hobbies outside of work?

A: “I do a lot of reading, and my husband and I like to travel. I do a lot of cruising, and work is what consumes me. We have three grandkids, and we are very involved with them.”

Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Long Beach?

A: “Definitely Steve’s Marina. That’s our favorite. We know someone who works there, and we love to go there.”

Q: What are some of your favorite books and movies?

A: “Well, I am a British literature person. I love Jane Austen and reading all of her books. My husband and I both like to watch historical things. We are really interested in seeing the Downton Abbey movie that just came out. And, of course, we love Jurassic Park, so we will be seeing that too.”

Q: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be - and what is your favorite place you have traveled to?

A: “Right now, I aspire to travel to England to explore some of my favorite authors. The most exciting place I’ve ever traveled to is Italy. I was able to go to Florence and Rome some time ago when I was studying for my MBA. It was a different time from today, but it was a wonderful trip; and it is also my heritage.”

Q: If you won the lottery and got one million dollars, how would you spend the money?

A: “The first thing I would do is give a bunch away to church and people who need it. I would probably donate to Oschner, and then I would make sure my kids were well set.”

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