Helen Victoria Gelhaus
December 7, 1922 – May 14, 2011
PLACE, DATE & TIME OF DEATH: 11:28 A.M. Saturday, May 14 at the Aspirus Wausau Hospital where she had been a patient for the past 13 days surrounded by her loving family
TIME & PLACE OF FUNERAL: 11:00 A.M. Wednesday May 18 at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Medford
OFFICIATING: Father Gerard Willger
PLACE OF BURIAL: Holy Rosary Catholic Cemetery, Medford
VISITATION AT: 8:30 A.M. until 10:45 A.M. Wednesday May 18 at the Hemer Funeral Home, Medford
Helen Victoria Gelhaus was born December 7, 1922 in the farming community of Redville, just east of Lublin, Wisconsin, to Edmund & Victoria Sapetta, immigrants from Poland. She was the second oldest of four daughters: Josephine, Helen, Wanda (Bochnia), and Louise (Parnewicz). She helped on the farm in her youth, attended elementary school in Redville, and in 1940 graduated from Owen High School.
After high school, she traveled to Chicago for work and adventure, where she remained for 16 years, working in factories, including Motorola (Belmont Street) for 10 years where she rose to level of supervisor, managing a department that made wire recorders for the war. Helen also attended beautician school at night while working at the factory, and then, after leaving the factory, worked five years as a beautician. Helen remembered being picked up by the bus each day on Lawrence Street. She lived on Milwaukee Street. In 1956, at the age of 34, she returned home to Redville to care for her ailing parents.
Helen met Arthur Gelhaus (a widower with 9 children) on a trip to Medford to purchase a car for her father. She would joke that Chevrolet threw in a husband with the car to seal the deal. They were married August 29, 1959 at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Lublin. An eyewitness at the reception said Art and Helen could dance a wild Polka. She moved to Medford where she resided at 133 North Second Street for the next 37 years. Raising nine children, and then three more of her own, Helen was busy with homemaking duties.
She was an excellent cook and all remember the big meals of pierogies, golumki (stuffed cabbage), creamed chicken on homemade biscuits, fried venison, porcupine meatballs, and countless others, or the special treats like the raised sugar donuts, the deep fried rosettes covered with powdered sugar, and a variety of pies, cookies, sweet rolls, and character birthday cakes. With a freezer always full of wild game, she mastered the art of making the toughest piece of meat taste great.
Holidays were special. The Christmas tree was always jaw-dropping, a tall tree covered with glass ornaments and countless lights. Art called it the Polish Christmas tree. At Easter, she would dye eggs with natural dyes and beeswax in the Polish style. At Halloween, carved pumpkins were everywhere.
Before her snowmobile accident in her early 50’s, which nearly took her life, she enjoyed putting together puzzles, with a number of them adorning the upstairs hallway. Helen was an avid gardener, and Art and she had a big plot which they kept immaculate out at the farm. She loved her flowers along the house. Canning and freezing vegetables and fruit were annual rituals.
Helen did find time for painting ceramic figurines which was one of her most memorable hobbies. She also enjoyed traveling with Art to Chevrolet conventions all over the world. And, of course, she loved going to garage sales. She was quite the regular attendee on the garage sale circuit in her later years. When she left her apartment on Main Street in 2005 to go to Country Gardens, an assisted living facility, she had a garage sale of her own. They came from all corners of the county to witness this mother-of-all-garage-sales. In her most recent years, she collected angels and had a beautiful display in her room.
She and Art were loyal members of Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Medford. All twelve children made their way through elementary school at Holy Rosary. Helen also enjoyed visiting the church of her youth in Lublin, the Polish National Catholic Church, and its cemetery, where her parents are buried. Through much of her life she would attend the annual Polish National Catholic Church festival in Lublin, where she could speak Polish with her friends from the past.
Helen was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Arthur, and also stepson Nicholas. Survivors include stepchildren Mary, Sally (Tony Kovacik), Carol (Roland Griffin), Jane (Tom Leischer), Laura (Dennis Zuleger), Susie (Lyle Jones), Peter (Jeanine), and Charles (Linda), and children Donna (Steve Smitala), Mark (Linda) and Robert. Survivors also include thirty-six grandchildren, twenty great grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild. Caretaker Martha Riehle was a very close and dear friend to Helen in her latter years.
In lieu of gifts, contributions can be made to Holy Rosary Catholic Church, 215 South Washington Avenue, Medford, WI 54451.