Helen Louise Rensch was born in Omaha in 1939, joining older sister Harriet (who later went by Heidi). The family soon moved to MInneapolis, where Helen and Harriet grew up. When the girls were in elementary school, they started taking piano lessons, which Helen, by her own telling, hated. She did everything she could not to practice and begged her mother to let her take swimming lessons and be on the local team instead. Eventually, she wore her mother down, and happily abandoned the piano for the pool. Helen swam for local swim teams and her high school team, winning numerous medals along the way.
She went off to college in Missouri and majored in physical education. While in college, she spent two summers in Liberia, helping to build a maternity hospital and teaching the local children. Those summers were very special and Helen often talked about her adventures in Africa. She made concrete bricks in the village of Sukromo, some 200 miles from the capital of Monrovia. She learned to carry a bucket of bricks on her head, native style. "That was seven weeks of hard work," she summed up at the end of the first summer.
Helen was also an avid scuba diver, spending a few weeks every summer with a group of scuba divers in such places as the Grand Cayman Islands or Jamaica. She loved to put together slide shows for the family, regaling her niece, Liz, and nephew, Rob, with stories about close encounters with barracuda and sharks.
Upon graduating college, Helen took a new position at the Litzinger school in St. Louis, Missouri, where she took on the role of physical education teacher for mentally and physically disabled children. Expected to be a babysitter, Helen had other ideas. A pioneer in her era, she decided to actually have her wards do physical education. When she announced that she was going to have her children do a 50 yard dash (at their own pace, and only if able), many parents and teachers objected, saying that the children would "drop down dead." Helen prevailed, held her race, and the children loved it. Helen created the curriculum for the school's physical education program - ensuring that the children were physically engaged. She loved working with special needs children.
In 1980, Helen, who had never married, adopted the love of her life - her son Jason - who has Down's Syndrome. Jason went to school with Helen every day and they both thrived. After Jason graduated from the school, Helen retired and the pair moved in with her parents, Bob and Ruth Rensch, who needed the help and who lived on Linwood Lake. Helen loved sailing on her sailboat or canoeing around the lake. One time she and nephew Rob canoed to Boot Lake, where they came upon a bald eagle sitting in its nest.
Helen took care of Bob and Ruth until they passed. She and Jason were regular attendees at Linwood Covenant Church. Both were also avid bowlers, participating on local teams. When not bowling, Helen and Jason often hung out at First State Bank of Wyoming, where she knew all the staff. The Bank staff helped Helen create a vacation savings account so that she and Jason could go to Grand Marais every summer on vacation.
In retirement, Helen took violin lessons, so that she "could learn to fiddle." She composed some of her own music and enjoyed playing until arthritis got the better of her. A few years ago, Jason moved into a group home in Coon Rapids and Helen moved to Walker Plaza in Anoka to be close to Jason. Helen suffered a stroke and passed peacefully on 29 September. In addition to her son Jason, Helen leaves behind her niece and nephew.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 a.m., Friday, October 14, 2022 at Linwood Covenant Church, 6565 Viking Blvd. NE, Wyoming, Minnesota. The family will greet friends one hour prior to the service at the church. Interment at Linwood Township Cemetery, Linwood, Minnesota.