Joan Madison Helmberger

Joan Madison Helmberger
Joan Madison Helmberger

Age 91, of Richfield, beloved wife, mother, grandmother and friend went home to the Lord on May 19, 2017. She was born in Luverne, MN and grew up on a farm outside of Hills, MN. The oldest of three daughters, Joan started driving tractors across the fields at age 12 to help prepare the fields in the spring, plant seed, and with the harvest in the fall. She really enjoyed showing the picture of herself driving the Allis Chalmers tractor, helping her dad farm.
She was preceded in death by her parents, one sister, and her husband, John. Survived by six children Janet Helmberger, John (Randa), Jean Kingery (John), Joel (Cindy), Julie Kirkland (David), and Jackie Fine (Tom), nine grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren; sister Donna Anderson; and many extended family members and friends.
Joan earned a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Minnesota in March 1948. She met her husband, John, at Comstock Hall where he worked in between classes. They were married in March 1948, and she worked as a budgeting accountant at General Mills for a year.
John and Joan were two of the earlier Richfield residents, settling in on Park Avenue in 1952. More young couples followed suit, and they all became a community of close-knit neighbors as everyone began having kids and commiserating and celebrating together. It was not uncommon for Mom to have several extra children to feed at lunch, comfort after a tumble, or send home at supper. She gave up on stopping her children (or John) from raiding the extra Thanksgiving stuffing, stealing pinches of caramel rolls while they were rising, or filching the crust from angel food birthday cakes as they cooled. She did so much cooking for a family of eight that as the children left home, she began saying, “I’m trying to forget how to cook, and I’ve pretty much succeeded.”
Joan was very committed to the Richfield community for many years while raising six kids and long after they left home. She was a long-time member of the Richfield League of Women Voters. Both Joan and John considered civic engagement as a responsibility and a privilege. They were involved in caucuses and meetings and other matters of politicking. She sat on the Richfield Housing and Redevelopment Authority for 25 years, was a member of the Richfield Planning Commission, and was a long-time Treasurer of the Richfield Foundation. Reading the newspaper and news magazines and watching television news was always important to Joan; she took pride in being a “news junkie.”
While sending all six children through St. Peters Catholic School (first through eighth grade), Joan led small groups of students in a Junior Great Books program. She also played in the Bridge Club and was a Eucharistic minister at St. Peter’s Catholic Church.
She went back to work in accounting after her youngest child was in high school, preparing income tax forms for clients for about 25 years in a small C.P.A. firm and also independently as an enrolled agent. She volunteered to assist seniors and folks with low income with their tax returns and helped many friends and family members as well. She actually enjoyed those tax seminars she attended!
Joan and John raised a family who all still love to travel. Summer vacations were long camping trips, often to wherever John’s professional conference was that year. Sometimes extended family members would join in; we took over those campgrounds, with crews of kids roaming and recruiting new friends for adventures and meals, and Joan just trying to keep up.
Joan and their two youngest daughters traveled to India with her husband John, who had a grant to teach at a university in southern India for three months. By the time they returned home, they had circumnavigated the globe. She continued to travel after John’s passing, touring Europe, Costa Rica, Japan, Tibet, and China.
We will dearly miss seeing our kind-hearted and generous and funny Mom, but know that her spirit remains with us, and we are thankful for all she has taught us about living a good life. And there is great happiness knowing she is back in Dad’s loving arms.
The family thanks the staffs of The Pines, Mt. Olivet-Careview, and Health Partners Hospice for their loving care of their mother, Joan.
Funeral Mass is at 10:30 AM Monday, June 12, at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Richfield, visitation at the church an hour before Mass. In lieu of flowers, memorials preferred to Woodlake Nature Center, St. Peter’s Church, or the Richfield Foundation.
Morris Nilsen Funeral Chapel

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