Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Aunt Elaine May 16, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

That’s Elaine in the middle, between two of my other aunts. I took this photo at the 2014 Kletscher Family Reunion. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


EVERY CHRISTMAS I COULD COUNT on a handwritten letter from my Aunt Elaine updating me on the latest news in her ever-growing family. At last count, 47 great grandchildren. But those missives will come no more. My godmother died Monday afternoon at the age of 95.

Now I have only memories of the second oldest daughter of my grandparents, of the woman who outlived her husband, two children and seven siblings (two of them infants). She was strong. Tough. Stubborn. Determined. Whatever word you want to use, my aunt held her own in life. Her love of family, her faith and her get-up-and-go defined her. Elaine still lived in her own home and as most recently as several weeks ago delivered food to her sister-in-law after the passing of Elaine’s brother Harold.

I grew up in a close-knit extended family that gathered often to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. We all lived near each other, either in Redwood or Yellow Medicine counties on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. I especially liked going to Aunt Elaine and Uncle Glenn’s house because then I could see Joyce, a favorite cousin born months after me. I also loved their house, a big old farmhouse of fine craftsmanship on a farm with a creaking windmill.


Homemade dill pickles (similar to the ones Elaine made) sold at the September 2015 Faribault Farmers’ Market and published here for illustration purposes only. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.


Beyond that, I selfishly couldn’t wait for the lunch Aunt Elaine would serve at the end of an evening of visiting. She made the best dill pickles. There was talk that well water made all the difference. Maybe. Maybe not. But I believe it was the hands that nurtured and picked those cucumbers and dill and then crafted them into dill pickles that made them legendary within our extended family.



Elaine was also known for her chocolate mayonnaise cake. I found the recipe (under her oldest daughter’s name) for that moist cake in the Peace Lutheran Centennial Cookbook, 1896 – 1996, Echo, Minnesota. Elaine served as a co-chair of the Cookbook Committee. I’m not surprised. She was always doing something for her church, community, family and others in general, including work as a practical nurse at the start of WW II. It’s part of our family legacy—this care and compassion and service.


Not the same cake Elaine made, but similar. Used here for illustration only. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Days before her death, Elaine sampled that chocolate cake one last time after a granddaughter baked the cake and brought it, still warm, to her dying grandmother at the hospital. Elaine ate a few bites and then reminded her family of just how much she loved sweets. I love that story. I love that story because it makes me laugh. In laughter I am reminded that death, though it brings sadness, also brings laughter in the memories. I will always hold sweet memories of my dear aunt, my dear godmother. She was a strong woman of faith, loving her family, her community and the prairie place she called home. And now she has reached her final home: heaven. That, too, gives me joy in the presence of grief.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


22 Responses to “Aunt Elaine”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I am so sorry, Audrey, for yet another loss in your life. I guess we have reached that age when the deaths will be coming more frequently. Aunt Elaine sounds like a truly wonderful woman and I can understand how your heart is breaking but rejoicing at the same time as she is in her heavenly home now. What a great legacy she has left behind. Oh and that chocolate mayo cake? I have a similar recipe I make and the next time I make it I will think of your sweet Aunt Elaine. God Bless.

  2. Kiandra Judge Says:

    It sounds like your aunt was a remarkable woman with a lot of moxie!
    I’m sorry for your loss though, especially so close after your uncle.
    Prayers for all!

  3. Good for Aunt Elaine! I have been blessed to know some beautiful “church ladies” and I’m glad you had your dear Aunt. Sad to say goodbye. Thanks for a heart-warming post.

  4. valeriebollinger Says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. You seem to have longevity in your family DNA, but it’s still hard to lose a loved one.

  5. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    I’m sorry for your loss, Audrey, and glad you have such warm memories and stories to take you forward.

  6. Jackie Says:

    Sorry to hear about your dear Aunt/Godmother. I didn’t need to read very far into your post to realize she was special to you. There is peace in your post describing memories of you aunt and then knowing she is HOME. Praying for you and your family as you grieve the loss of a special loved-one.

  7. So sorry to hear that you had another loss in the family. One special lady indeed and she fed the heart, body, mind and spirit too. Be blessed my friend – Take Care (((((((loveandhugs)))))))

  8. Murphy's Law Says:

    Even though I’m a newbie to your post, I don’t think it would be inappropriate for me to extend my condolences for your loss. Your Aunt/Godmother Elaine sounds like she had a special place in your heart. And sad as it is now, with time, you will draw comfort from all those years of wonderful memories.
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

    • Thank you, Ginger. I graciously accept your condolences. I haven’t really felt overly sad at this point given I had time to prepare for her death and given Elaine lived a long and good life. Now the funeral, that may be different.



    • Thank you, Lisa. Please check back tomorrow for another post about my aunt that will move you to tears. I attended her funeral on Thursday and need to share not only my emotions and observations, but something incredibly special in a legacy of love.

  10. Littlesundog Says:

    Aw, what a “sweet” post and dedication to your Aunt. I felt all warm and smiley reading this… isn’t it lovely to celebrate life? It’s sad to lose someone, but oh what lovely memories, Audrey.

  11. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Your aunt sounds like an incredibly interesting woman. Good memories to think back on!

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 )

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.