Helen Marena (Jones) Heller was born May 4, 1924, and passed into eternity June 29, 2011, at the age of 87. Helen was the eldest daughter of Chloie and Earl Jones, born in Hedrick, Iowa. As she often shared, her birth weight was under five pounds and they put her in a shoe box and kept her warm on the back of the cook stove at night.
She began her life in a fragile condition and the past few months of her life were also fragile, but her spirit was definitely alive and her mind was sharp clear to the end. Often when she woke, she’d be thinking of someone and wondering how they were doing or thinking of someone to call or write, she was concerned about people and everyone was special to her.
If she knew you, you’ve been prayed for. And if you’ve been prayed for by Helen, it was a long and fervent prayer with expected results. Her faith was strong, her love genuine, and her joy was deep.
She loved her family and she considered many to be in her family circle. over the years many have called her mom or grandma and many have counted on her to say a prayer for them.
Helen played high school girls half court basketball in Iowa. She could surprise the kids during recess at school or Stanley and his friends at home by shooting and making baskets, even when she was “old.” her spiritual life was influenced by the camp meetings and revival meetings that would last for days.
She moved to Des Moines and attended Open Bible Institute and worked in a plant making tents for the Army during the war. Two of her acquaintences and roommates were Violet Strauke (Stithem) and Deloras Baird (Webb). Violet was instrumental in bringing her to Dunning for a visit and meeting a rancher bachelor by the name of Miller Heller. She lost contact with Deloras until her future son-in-law, Bill Webb, introduced her to his mother some 25 years later.
She worked in hospitals in Crawford, Kearney and Broken Bow. While dating Miller, she even tried to buy a bus ticket to LynnScott, Nebraska” so she could apply for a hospital job as he told her it’d sure be nice if she didn’t live so far away because by the time he could get the cows fed and drive to Kearney it would be time to get back home to milk cows again. His solution was to move closer to Dunning and work in this really nice, new hospital they just built. Of course, LynnScott was no bigger than it is now and the closest hospital is still Broken Bow.
While in Crawford, she’d preach in a box car on the Indian reservation close to Fort Robinson. She’d walk while carrying her saxophone and start playing gospel songs to let everyone know that it was time for church service. They would follow her to the box car and she would begin teaching from the Word of God.
Sometimes if a dog fight started up outside, her whole audience would disappear to watch the fight, then they would come back afterwards and she would just pick up where she had left off.
Helen and Miller were married on Christmas Eve, 1949, in Broken Bow and made their home on the ranch north of Dunning. She learned to milk cows, mow hay, ride horses and even after she turned 60 try out a used motorcycle before Miller could trade off an old pickup.
She wrecked the motorcycle, ruptured her kidney and ended up in Good Samaritan Hospital during the night. She called and said she was suppose to preach that morning; Bill would have to preach for her, and her sermon notes were on the coffee table. She had a unique way of bringing people together.
Helen is survived by her husband of 61 years, Miller Heller; sister, Beverly Hebbert of Casper, Wyo.; daughter, Vickie and Bill Webb of Dunning; son, Stanley and Shelly McKimmey of Ainsworth; daughter, Elizabeth and Laddie Kmoch of Broken Bow; six granddaughters, Jennifer and Mike Schmidt of Anselmo, Kelly and Chad Duryea of Merna, Lisa and Trent Russell of Merna, Cori McKimmey, Kristie and Dustin Peterson, and Nancy and Thomas Sipes of Kearney; 10 great-grandchildren, Dawson, Dalton and Dane Duryea, Brant, Bryce and Rylee Schmidt, Jayden and Kenzie Russell, and Madison and Wyatt Sipes.
Preceding her in death were her parents, Chloie and the Rev. Chester Earl Jones; in-laws, Edver and Katherine Heller; brother-in-law, George Hebbert; infant twin daughters, Marilyn and Carolyn Heller; and son, Ricky Miller Heller.
Published in Custer County Chief, July 7, 2011