The Heroines

Helen I. Orth

is honored with a Brick from Joe Landes.

Helen Orth would not fit anyone's traditional idea of a heroine. She worked as a factory worker in a meat packing plant for 20 years to support her family. One of the proudest moments of her life was to see her daughter, Jo Ann, graduate from college, something Helen was unable to obtain for herself. However, she knew she wanted her child to have more fulfilling career opportunities than she had. When any one of us would get discouraged, she would always say, "You can do anything you set your mind to." She may not have been one of the smartest people by MENSA standards, but she had more common sense and a better philosophy of life than just about anyone we knew. She couldn't sew on a button but she could build anything out of wood, which she proved by building an addition on to the house and garage as well as many other projects. She could repair almost anything or would at least try. After all, as she would say, "It was already broken when I started."

Any family member or acquaintance would tell you Helen was one of the most unselfish people they had ever known. When family or friends were visiting in her home, her favorite saying was "You've been here more than five minutes, so you're not company anymore!" And she meant it; she always wanted people to feel like her home was their home. When her niece, Jane, was in nurse's training, she and her friends would go to "Annie's" house every weekend. And she had as much fun having them over as much as they enjoyed being there. When Jane's son was born she went to their house every day to take care of him while his mother returned to work. And when they went on vacation, she went over to their house daily to feed the menagerie of fish, turtles, newts, parakeets and frogs that were so dear to her great nephew. When it came time for Jane and her family to move to California from Kansas, Annie was the one who made the long trip with them, along with a dog, salamander and a wastebasket full of fish.

Sometimes she seemed like a big kid herself. Her nephew, Joe, remembers visits to Aunt Helen's house as endless rounds of miniature golf, swimming, amusement parks, and even buying him his first baseball uniform. She even put up a basketball goal for him in the middle of winter in the snow. She just had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the world.

In spite of her two hip replacements, she was always willing to give of herself and her time if anyone needed her. When Joe's wife was having their second child, it was Aunt Helen who flew to Chicago to help take care of Joe and his son while Connie was busy with their new baby daughter. When her niece, Jane, became ill and unable to take care of her family, Aunt Helen would fly (not her favorite way to travel) out to California to help out. She would provide all manner of assistance from cleaning to cooking everyone's favorite dishes, again extending that fragile bond of home and security. And when Helen's brother and sister-in-law were both ill at the same time, their children were unable to provide the extended care they would be needing due to their own family responsibilities. But Helen didn't think twice about going to Illinois to take care of them. As a result, everyone was able to sleep better knowing she was there.

Whether she was Mom, Aunt Helen, "Annie," or Helen, anyone whose life was touched by hers will always remember her as not just a heroine but also one of the dearest and special people they have ever known .

September 5, 1998