1 p.m. on Saturday, June 10, 2017, at Prairie View Cemetery, Village of Lake Hallie, Chippwa County, WI to celebrate Helen's new life.
Helen E. (Erlien) Irwin, 92, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, comfortably passed to her new life at Our House, Assisted Care for Seniors in Chippewa Falls on June 7, 2017.
She was born August 30, 1924 in Strum, Wisconsin. Helen was the 3rd eldest of eight children born to Joseph and Ellen Erlien. She grew up on the family farm located on the south side of that city. She was baptized and confirmed at St. Paul's Lutheran Church.
She went to her first day of school only speaking Norwegian. It was at Johnson Valley School-a one-room-school-house-in Strum that Helen learned to speak English. She graduated from Lincoln Hill High School, Osseo, in 1941. After graduation, she spent time in Chicago working as a nanny.
Returning back to the Chippewa Valley after WWII she worked at a little corner grocery store in Eau Claire and met her future husband at a popular dance hall. Roland "Speed" Irwin and Helen married on July 6, 1948, in Stillwater, Minnesota. Speed and Helen spent the next 54 years making memories.
Between work and kids, they spent their free time traveling, dancing, camping, hiking, boating, motorcycle riding, snowmobiling, fishing, and hunting. Most years, Helen would get her deer first. (She was a very patient hunter and would sit under a tree and wait for the deer to come to her). Their kids are thankful for the many years of camping and traveling the family did together. Although it wasn't until decades later, their kids appreciated the stops to read every historical marker along the way.
Helen and Speed were charter members of Faith Lutheran Church in Chippewa Falls.
Helen started work at the Northern Center for the Developmentally Disabled when their youngest child went off to school. She worked there for over 25 years and retired as a purchasing agent in the business office in 1985. After retirement, Helen and Speed continued their travels and made new friends all across the country. Their love of nature brought them to Day Lake in northern Wisconsin where they spent time as campground hosts. Their love of nature also brought them to Arizona where they spent many years traveling the deserts and backcountry in their camper, eventually wintering in Apache Junction. Their love of veterans brought them to the Disabled American Veterans Volunteer Transportation Network VA Medical Center where they worked as volunteers.
An avid rockhound, Helen could spend days picking up rocks and marveling at their history. If she wasn't searching for rocks, you could always find her with pencil and a sudoku, crossword puzzles and word finds in hand. As she grew older, she enjoyed an occasional trip to a casino. Helen was quite lucky!
Halloween was a fun holiday for Helen. She always met trick and treaters at the door in costume. After all the kids went home and to bed, she and her good friend Mickey Johnson would go out and do a little trick or treating of their own.
Those who knew Helen well knew there was a lot going on behind her quiet, mannerly presence.
She is survived by: her four children, Barbara (Jim) Dilts of Davenport, Iowa, Patricia Rich of West Linn, Oregon, Danny Irwin of Eau Claire, and Peg (Jake) Leinenkugel of Chippewa Falls; eight grandchildren, Lisa (Ruben) Perez of Davenport, Iowa, Tammy McCay of West Linn, Oregon, Amber (Mike) Lagow of Neillsville, Eric Irwin of Chippewa Falls, Matt (Libby) Leinenkugel of Chippewa Falls, Kirk Leinenkugel of Chippewa Falls, Christopher "C.J." (Caitlin) Leinenkugel of Excelsior, Minnesota, and Ellie Leinenkugel of Scottsdale, Arizona; twelve great-grandchildren, Marisa and Antonio Perez, Connor, Sarah and Ella McCay, Anna Marie, Katie and Brady Kunsman, Eli Lagow, and Kiara, Elin and Clarke Leinenkugel; one great-great-grandchild, Margaret Jean Lagow. She is also survived by two sisters-in-law, Ione (Everett) Erlien of Janesville and Nancy (Palmer) Erlien of Chippewa Falls; and many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Roland "Speed" Irwin; sisters and brothers, Marion Winess, Melba (Jule) Rosholm, and Edwin Erlien, all of Strum, Everett Erlien of Janesville, Palmer Erlien of Chippewa Falls, and Milton and Harold (Rojean) Erlien, both of Janesville.
A graveside memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 10, 2017, at Prairie View Cemetery, Village of Lake Hallie, Chippwa County, WI to celebrate Helen's new life. Rev. William Plautz will be officiating. An Ice Cream Social (Helen loved sweets, Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss and milk) in Helen's honor will be held at Loopy's Grill & Saloon, 10691 County Hwy X, Chippewa Falls, WI 54729 at 2 p.m. following the memorial service.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Roland and Helen Irwin Endowment Fund for clean waterways at the Community Foundation of Chippewa County.
Helen's family thanks the entire staff of Our House for their loving care of their mother and HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital Hospice for their support, care and guidance during their mother's last months.