Helen did her part in World War II, appearing in an anti-Nazi play called Candle in the Wind. She also made as many appearances as she could to boost the morale of the troops. Unfortunately, Charlie was sent overseas, where he worked at a desk and became increasingly addicted to alcohol.
When Mary was sixteen, she appeared with her mother in Alice Sit-by-the-Fire. Although Helen had been wary of her children's involvement in acting, it seemed Mary had inherited her mother's talent. But tragedy struck the MacArthurs in 1949 when Mary became ill and died of polio. Helen said, "The very worst thing that can happen is to bury your young." Charlie took it even harder, and he became steadily more depressed. Helen eventually found comfort in helping fight the disease. She founded the Mary MacArthur Fund to raise awareness, and Jonas Salk credited her with helping him establish funding for a vaccine. But Charlie gave in to his depression and alcoholism in 1956, when he died of nephritis (kidney disease) and severe anemia.
Helen continued acting, knowing that work could help her get past her sadness. She starred with Ingrid Bergman in the film Anastasia shortly after Charlie's death. Later, she went on long tours with repertory companies. Helen had always had respiratory problems, but she was now having recurring bronchial infections. She claimed several times that her latest performance would be the last, but Helen couldn't resist good offers. She finally retired from the stage in 1971, after her doctor told her she was allergic to "backstage dust."
After her retirement from theater, Helen continued her acting career in film and television. She won her second Academy Award for the 1971 movie Airport. She was the first Oscar nominee to win in categories for both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Helen also starred in several TV movies and a crime series called The Snoop Sisters. In 1982, Helen and former First Lady of the US Lady Bird Johnson founded the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which helps to preserve North America's natural landscape and resources. She continued writing books as well, finishing her most acclaimed autobiography, My Life in Three Acts, at age 90. After a long, eventful life, Helen died of congestive heart failure on March 17, 1993.
Helen Hayes' success is the direct result of her incredible work ethic and discipline. She had the kind of talent that put critics and audiences in awe, and a warm heart and humble charity that kept her in tune with the masses. For that she will always be remembered with affection and love.