Sunday, September 18, 2011

Helen May (Whipple) Christensen

Madison -- Surrounded by the love of family and friends, Helen May (Whipple) Christensen died overlooking the lake in Madison, WI, on September 18, 2011, at the age of 101. She had suffered a stroke two months earlier at her assisted living apartment in Racine, WI, where she was living independently since moving in 2009 from her home of more than 50 years in the Racine Spring Valley neighborhood.

She was the last surviving member of her generation of two Iowa farm families joined by her 57-year marriage to Harald Nathaniel Christensen, who died in 1997.

She was born at home to Mary May (Buchannan) and Milo Doak Whipple on December 18, 1909, outside of Agency, IA. She grew up in and around Agency where she graduated from high school at the age of 16. She was the oldest known alumnus of Agency High.

She subsequently earned a degree in education from Iowa Wesleyan College where she was a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, from which she received her 75-year white violet charm in 2003 accompanied by her granddaughter, a Michigan State ZTA.

She was teaching high school English in Waukee, IA, when she met Harald, a chemical engineer from Dana College who joined the faculty as a science teacher. Because women teachers were not allowed to be married, they were married secretly in Cheyenne, WY, during the 1939 Christmas break and lived apart for the rest of the school year so she wouldn’t be fired. During WWII they moved to Michigan where, after her children reached school age, she resumed her teaching career as a substitute.

The family moved to Racine in 1957 and she taught 7th and 8th grade English and Social Studies at McKinley Junior High School until her retirement in 1975. She was a loyal member of the retired teachers’ association and attended her last meeting the day before her stroke.

She was a lifelong member of the Methodist Church, where she taught Sunday school and actively participated in the adult fellowship and the United Methodist Women’s groups. She had been a member of Christ United Methodist Church since the Grange Avenue Methodist congregation moved in 1961 and was present at their 50th anniversary celebration in July.

She enjoyed reading, traveling, gardening, playing bridge, attending family celebrations and going out to eat, all of which she continued to pursue as much as advancing age and arthritis would permit. Her 100th birthday party at a Milwaukee Pub was a hoot and a half for all her friends and family attending.

She was a diminutive, determined inspiration to all who met and knew her. Non-confrontational to the max, she accepted and coped with the vicissitudes of life with equanimity and quiet resolve and enjoyed a long, full and exemplary life. Rest in peace, dear lady, we will miss you terribly.

Helen is survived by her two sons, Dennis Dean (Lynn)of  Madison, WI, and Philip Alan (Katherine) of Greendale, WI; four grandchildren, Kimberly Ann of Middleton, WI, Steven Douglas (Julie) of St. Paul, MN, Sara Ann Holz (Michael) of Madison, WI, and Laura Marie Peterson (Michael) of Hartford, WI; and five great grandchildren, Alex and Emma Christensen, Jonathan and Allison Peterson, and Noah Holz; as well as more than 100 nieces and nephews.

A funeral service will be held on Monday, September 26, 2011, at 11 a.m., following visitation beginning at 10 a.m., at Christ United Methodist Church, 5114 Wright Ave., Racine, WI. 53406. A luncheon will be served at the church immediately after the funeral service followed by interment at West Lawn Memorial Park. Memorials to Christ Church United Methodist have been suggested.

803 Main St., Racine   (262) 634-7888

No comments: