Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota Faces: Rural community volunteers March 6, 2015

Portrait #10: Helen Newman and Cindy Packard

Helen Newman, left, and Cindy Packard work on a Morristown sesquicentennial scrapbook in June 2013.

Helen Newman, left, and Cindy Packard work on a Morristown sesquicentennial scrapbook in June 2013.

When I photographed life-long Morristown resident Helen Newman nearly two years ago clipping newspaper stories and taping them into her community’s sesquicentennial scrapbook, I knew I’d met a cherished volunteer.

She was settled behind a teacher’s desk with Cindy Packard, visiting her hometown from Colorado Springs, on the June afternoon I walked into the District #54 Schoolhouse Museum with my notebook and camera. My presence didn’t stop Helen from focusing on the task at hand. She understood the importance of saving documents.

But there was more than dedicated volunteerism that drew me to the then 87-year-old. Her friendliness and gentleness of spirit reminded me of my mom. I think, had they lived in the same rural area, they would have been friends.

Helen died on Monday. She was all I assessed her to be, and more.

Her obituary is a beautiful tribute to a woman who led a joyful life. She clearly worked hard, loved deeply and lived out her faith in God.

Her four surviving children wrote an especially heartfelt obit that includes this descriptive paragraph:

Our Mom was a kind and generous person who believed the best in all people. She was a wonderful friend. She believed in us and was our biggest cheerleader. Some of our favorite memories of our Mom are: Her wonderful smile that would light up a room; her love of dancing; her awesome full-body hugs; her boundless energy; her green thumb; and her canned beef and pork chop dinners.

What a wonderful way to be remembered—for believing in others, for kindness, for dancing…and for canned beef and pork chop dinners.

FYI: To read Helen’s full obituary, click here.


This is part of a series, Minnesota Faces, featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.


11 Responses to “Minnesota Faces: Rural community volunteers”

  1. “….who believed the best in all people.” Oh, yes, that must be part of what attracted her to you, Audrey. Lovely.

  2. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    I am so enjoying your Friday photo series. And I’m sorry to hear of Helen’s passing. What I love about this photo is the way we see Helen’s history etched on her skin – the smile wrinkles around her eyes and mouth, the enlarged knuckles in her hands, the way she’s leaning forward over the scrapbook. And the other photos visible within this photo are fun…is that Santa I see? Happy Friday, Audrey.

    • Thank you, Kathleen.

      Your observations confirm what I saw in Helen and what was written about her in her obit. If you have gone back to my original post, you will see that I photographed Helen’s hands. Her hands fascinated me, as hands often do. It appears she may have suffered from arthritis, but there she was working on that scrapbook. I also noticed the cross necklace, an outward symbol of her faith. So much can be read in a photo. Each photo is a story.

      And, yes, that does look like Santa in the photo within the photo. I hadn’t noticed that.

  3. Dan Traun Says:

    Nicely written.

  4. So sorry to hear she passed – beautiful tribute to her – thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Sue Ready Says:

    Beautiful tribute and very uplifting. Hope you are able to share this blog with her family. They would enjoy your heartfelt words.

  6. hotlyspiced Says:

    Helen sounds like a wonderful person and I really do admire people who spend years volunteering. How sad for her four children that she has passed away but from the obituary it sounds like they have a lot of wonderful memories to hold on to xx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.