A Parks And Recreation Star Has Passed Away

By Jessica Scott | Published

parks and recreation hele slayton-hughes

Helen Slayton-Hughes, known best for her role as grumpy court stenographer Ethel Beavers on the hit sitcom Parks and Recreation, has died. The beloved series’ actress was 92 years old when she passed away on December 7, 2022. According to Variety, her family posted on Facebook the next day that “Helen passed away last night. Her pain has ended but her fierce spirit lives on. Thank you for the love and support of her and her work.”

Helen Slayton-Hughes was born in 1930 but didn’t see her name up in the lights until she was 50 years old when she appeared in the movie Mafia on the Bounty as Selma. She also appeared in Shoot the Moon in 1982 before going on hiatus until 2000.

After that, Helen Slayton-Hughes began appearing in roles she is better known for, mostly in the comedy genre. Some of her movie credits include Good Night and Good Luck, directed by George Clooney, Hesher, and Crazy on the Outside

helen slayton-hughes

Helen Slayton-Hughes is perhaps best known for her parts in television shows, however. Long before Parks and Recreation, she appeared in fan-favorite sitcoms such as Arrested Development, New Girl, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, That’s So Raven, and Fresh Off the Boat.

Viewers may also have caught Helen Slayton-Hughes in dramas like Parenthood and HBO’s True Blood. In the latter, she played Caroline Bellefleur, the oldest member of the Bellefleur family. She replaced the original actress Katherine Helmond, making her own debut in the sixth season episode “Dead Meat.”

From 2012 – 2013, Helen Slayton-Hughes also acted in 18 episodes of Burning Love, a series spoofing reality dating shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette

Despite her impressive filmography, most tv fans will recognize Helen Slayton-Hughes from Parks and Recreation. First appearing in season three’s “The Bubble” episode, her character of Ethel Beavers was a hit from the start. The sourpuss stenographer may have only appeared in ten episodes of the seven-season series, but she made quite an impression on the audience.

After proving to be immune to Tom’s (Aziz Ansari) famous sweet-talk in season three, Ethel Beavers (Helen Slayton-Hughes) returned as the court stenographer in season four during “The Trial of Leslie Knope,” when Amy Poehler’s character put was on trial by the ethics committee. 

In season five, Helen Slayton-Hughes made perhaps her biggest splash yet when April (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy (Chris Pratt) were looking for someone to sign a marriage license for Leslie and Ben. In “Leslie and Ben,” Ethel answers the door and reveals to April and Andy that she has an old man sleeping over after a date that went well, and notoriously dour April is so impressed that she asks her to be her adopted grandmother. Ethel, in her trademark curmudgeon style, replies, “Fine.”

Helen Slayton-Hughes’ character was a perfect match for the protagonist Leslie Knope’s (sometimes gratingly) cheerful demeanor on Parks and Recreation. There is nothing funnier than watching total opposites interact, and Slayton-Hughes will always be remembered for her ability to make being a grouchy stenographer look fun.

While Helen Slayton-Hughes once admitted that she enjoyed playing more dramatic roles, she was often cast in comedies due to her talent for making people laugh. After her passing, her family noted in a clip on Facebook that Helen “always made us laugh.” They also said that, wherever we go after death, the laughter she inspired will carry on.