Happy Birthday Helen!

November 22, 2010

Today’s Helen Vert’z birthday and she is 102 years old.

Isn’t that simply amazing?!

For those of you who don’t know or remember, Helen and my grandmother Ruth were the greatest of friends. Long after these lovely ladies were able to get out and about, they continued to keep each other’s company with daily conversations on the telephone. Theirs was a true friendship that spanned half a lifetime.

One hundred and two years old—can you imagine?

You know how when you talk on the phone with an old person and you tell them who you are, there’s always a moment of silence and then this loud, “WHO?”

Well, I’ve gotta say, when I called Helen earlier this summer I did not get that at all. This amazing woman is sharp as a tack. When I told her my name and that I was Ruth Larson’s granddaughter, I got the briefest moment of silence and then “Oh, yes, Diahann! I know who you are!”

She then went on to tell me all about myself, my siblings, and my cousins; where we’re living and what we’re doing. Obviously, she and Ruth did a lot of talking over the years!

“Your Grandma and I have been friends since 1946,” Helen told me on the phone. “We met when she first joined Salem (church) and started coming to Ladies Aid. We were in Ladies Aid together all these years.”

Actually Helen and Ruth both came to Owosso’s Salem Lutheran Church in 1946. As the wife of a pastor, Helen came earlier that year when her husband, Rev. Kenneth Vertz, accepted a call to serve the congregation. Together they served until he retired shortly before his death in 1978.

And then Ruth’s husband George died in 1983.

Suddenly, through no choice of their own, a whole brigade of Salem women found themselves with time and no husbands. Elderly and widowed, yes. Elderly and without spirit? Certainly not.

“We had a lot of fun,” Helen told me. “We’d all get into Ruth (Klingbeil’s) car, and she would drive us everywhere. We’d go to church, then we’d go out to eat and then we’d come back and play pinochle. Some days we would drive for hours.” (In comments to my March 5 post, there’s a funny reference to the ladies. Check it out here.)

At 102, Helen is very likely the last of her brigade. Just recently she’s moved out of her home on N. Park St., and is now living in a senior assisted living center. I spoke with Esther, Salem’s church secretary, and she said today a group of Salem ladies are going out to give her a party.

Those Salem ladies. They’ll always find cause for a party:-)

Two things to wrap this up:

1. Does anyone have a picture of Helen and Ruth? Of all the ladies? I’d love to post it.

2. How about we all send Helen a birthday card? Think how fun it would be. Send her a card telling who you are, how you know Ruth (chances are she’ll already know, but tell her anyway), and, if you’d like, send a picture of yourself. Let me know if you need her address.

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