Helen is 102 years young! Yes, she is our oldest independent living resident at Valley VNA. Having moved here last April, she said “This is like home. The friendships are beautiful. The activities are terrific and keep people busy and happy.” When asked what do you attribute your long life to, Helen says with a twinkle in her eyes “Staying active and chasing after her three sons all her life!”

Helen met her husband, Floyd, while riding the streetcar to College Avenue in Appleton. They were childhood sweethearts and lived only four blocks apart. They were married in June, 1936 and Helen’s mother sang three solos during their ceremony. Helen said, “It was quite the family affair.”

As with the times, Floyd went to work right out of high school and Helen raised the family. Floyd began his employment as an artist at Appleton Engraving earning $8 per week. IMG_3405 (1) copyIMG_3403 (1)He then entered the engraving field as an apprentice. He was a true artist as seen by hanging wood carvings Helen cherishes to this day. Describing herself as a typical mother for the times, Helen raised three sons – John, David and Paul and describes herself as a “tomboy” mom since she really liked playing with her boys. Not without its challenges, she believes the world was “calmer, comfortable and safe”. She wishes the world could be like that still today. She recalls the friendliness of neighbors who would stop by for coffee or a quick game of cards while the kids were out playing in the neighborhood. “You never knew what they were doing or where they were but you weren’t worried.” explained Helen. She would just form a whistle with her two pinky fingers and they would come running.

When asked about life during the Great Depression, Helen sighed and talked about how Floyd was laid off from his job as an artist and did some construction for a while.  He even sold his camera, an artist’s prized possession, to help feed his family.  Helen did lots of sewing, darned socks, baked bread and tended the garden.

Reminiscing about family times, Helen said she loved going sledding, playing baseball, tennis or golf.  Her fondest moments though, were of family camping times at Muskellunge Lake in Northern Wisconsin, that began in 1952.  They started camping before it became popular and returned year after year.  She remembers how Floyd bought a bale of hay they used for padding to lay on, way before the air mattresses of today.  They would spend hours and hours at the beach swimming and loved the evening campfires.

In their retirement, Helen and Floyd traveled a bit, spent winters in Zephyrhills, Florida and returned to the North woods each summer.

Helen has seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.  Her advice to her family would be “Stay active and don’t give advice to each other unless it’s asked for.”

What would Helen tell her friends about living at Valley VNA?  “Come on over!  There’s always someone here with a smile on their face, willing to help you.  You’ll be welcomed by lots of new friends and can keep active everyday with activities.”

One last thing – she still beams when she talks about all her boys and laughs with them when they sing “The old gray mare she ain’t what she used to be . . . “.