Born and raised in Limerick City, Ireland, Helen began taking Irish dancing lessons as a child from Mrs LeGeer in Limerick. After earning her license as a registered nurse, Helen married PJ Gannon, a physician from Galway.
In 1967, the Gannon family emigrated from Ireland to St. Louis. Realizing the need for support of the traditional arts of Ireland, Helen studied to become the first commissioned Irish dance instructor in the state of Missouri. Helen also made sure that her own four children attended regular music lessons with local musicians.
Today, Helen is currently the President of St. Louis Irish Arts Inc. and the owner of the school. Two of her four children, Niall and Eileen Gannon, are teachers at the school and four of her grandchildren are currently students there. Her husband, P.J. teaches singing, recitation and harmonica lessons at St. Louis Irish Arts also. In her daily duties at St. Louis Irish Arts, not only does Helen run the place, but she also teaches the tin whistle. She is also very active in Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.
Helen has received many awards over the years for her dedication to the preservation and promotion of the Irish Arts on this side of the Atlantic. Most recently, she was awarded the Gradam Cheoil Award in Ireland in 2013. Some of awards that she has received are as follows:
- Named one of the Top 100 Irish Americans by Irish America Magazine
- Lifetime acheivment by Grand Center St Louis
- Inspiration Award awarded by Congress
- Member of North American Feis Commission Hall of Fame
- The Gannon family was honored to perform for the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
- She also brought students from the school to play and perform for Congress.
"Under her guidance as President of St. Louis Irish Arts, many of Helen Gannon’s students have earned Congressional Award Gold Medals— “It’s that kind of outstanding commitment that proves Helen Gannon to be the worthy recipient of the Inspiration Award. Each year, the Inspiration Award is given to an exceptional Congressional Award advisor for their outstanding dedication and service in honoring the initiative, achievement and excellence of America’s youth.”
The Inspiration Award— Advisor of the Year presented by Congress for her work in the Congressional Award Foundation.