Baby name story: Arlene Francis


A few years ago, Minnesota newspaperman Allan “Red” Helderman told the Daily Journal the story behind the name of his youngest daughter, born on November 25, 1978.

His wife had been battling leukemia while pregnant. “Patty went into labor twice, and the doctors stopped it. The third time, when she was about seven months along, they couldn’t stop her labor.”

So Red and Patty were immediately flown to Duluth on a Cessna airplane (with “no heat, no oxygen”) piloted by Francis Einarson. They were accompanied by a nurse named Arlene Enzmann.

They baby girl was born as they were flying over the town of Buhl. “Nurse Arlene had to give mouth-to-mouth until they landed in Duluth.” She weighed just two pounds, nine ounces.

The baby survived, and was named Arlene Francis in honor of the nurse and the pilot.

“Every year since then, Nov. 25 in Buhl is Arlene Francis Day,” says Red. “They have a plaque in their town hall and they gave us one, too.”


  • “Cancer Victim Gives Birth During Flight to Hospital.” Observer-Reporter [Washington, PA] 30 Nov. 1978: A-10.
  • Severson, Trina. “Good journey to the journeyman.” Daily Journal [International Falls, MN] 31 Jan. 2008.

Image: Adapted from Air Canada Boeing 777-333ER by MarcusObal under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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