Helen Elizabeth Christensen Vaubel was born on a cold December day in a wood frame farmhouse south of Royal in 1914. She loved growing up on the farm and as the oldest of four girls helped her father and uncle with farm work. While the other sisters were learning how to bake bread and sew clothes, Helen worked side by side with her father pitching hay, feeding the animals and helping with harvest. But no one escaped cooking when the threshers came, and Helen and her sisters cooked all day for the noontime dinner guests. In the last days of her life when she spoke fluently of her rural past and these wonderful times on the farm were clear and vivid memories.
Helen attended a one-room school at Willow Creek. There were five kids in her class but three were so slow, according to Helen, that the teacher had Helen and her cousin, Amy Christensen Osterhois skip a grade making her 16 when she graduated from high school. This was not unusual for the times but 16 was young for college and leaving home. She loved history and Declamatory work in high school and was very proud of the fact that she always scored high on the county exams.
By the time she graduated with a teaching license from Iowa State Teachers College (UNI) she was only 18. She landed her first job at Brook Consolidated School, a two story brick school that towered above everything else out on the prairie just south of Peterson. She taught 5th and 6th grade and in her younger years shared lots of stories about living next door to the school in teacherage (where single women lived when they taught school in rural Midwest). After three years of teaching she returned to college, this time at the University of Iowa. While there on a blind date she met a tall, skinny med student who won her heart. After they were married on her parents' farm in 1938, Helen followed her husband to Indianapolis for an internship to Des Moines and the Department of Public Health. When America joined the war so did EK, and Helen found herself moving again - Ft. Benning, Ga., Washington D.C., Portland, Ore. and back to Washington D.C. When the war ended this greatest generation, according to Helen, just wanted to go home. Helen and EK returned to Iowa and EK set up shop in Estherville. There Helen would raise four children and involve herself in community and civic work: PTA, Hospital Auxiliary, Band parents, PEO, and helping with the annual music festival were fond memories. But most important were her family, her friends and her church.
Left to cherish her memory are her children: E.K. Jr. and Barb Vaubel, Punta Gorda, Mary Jean and Dick Montgomery, Spencer, Ia., Dr. John and Wendy Vaubel, Okoboji, and Christi and Jan Van Heek, Marblehead, Mass.; her sister, Margaret Petersen, Minneapolis, Minn.; 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 4, 2011, at the First Lutheran Church in West Okoboji. Visitation will be held Thursday, from 5-7 p.m. at the Schuchert Funeral Home. Burial will be at Lakeview Gardens Cemetery in Spirit Lake. Memorials may be given to the First Lutheran Church, Milford, Trinity Lutheran Church, Estherville, and PEO, Chapter AY in Estherville.