Our mother was born at home in Warren, Ontario Canada, to Robert and Alice Munro on November 27, 1926, one of eleven children. Her childhood was filled with family fun, farm chores as well as walking or sledding before daylight to start the fire and clean the small cabin schoolhouse. The left this earth on March 21, 2022.
As WWII began, Helen was chosen to attend St. Joseph’s School of Nursing in North Bay, Ontario where she graduated and worked as an RN in Barrie, Ontario, before traveling to the US to work in Akron, Ohio. There, she and her nurse friends found an advertisement for nursing in Ketchikan, Alaska. Journeying by steamboat from Seattle, they found the promise of housing non-existent before finding an apartment above the Alaska Sportsman magazine which also housed the printing press. On the monthly print days, fire evacuations were a common occurrence. Helen found her nursing profession fulfilling in obstetrics as a labor and delivery nurse – even delivering her nephew. On occasion, the nurses apartment boarded expectant mothers from afar. As a thank you from one, Helen was invited to the Annette Island Halloween Party where she met our father, John.
Courting by plane was an interesting adventure as well as finding roses in the toilet tank used as an available source of water. They were married in Ketchikan on October 3, 1952, and enjoyed many years together, living in many remote locations in Alaska – Juneau, Galena, Mt Edgecumbe, Northway, and Delta Junction. As the family expanded to nine children, snow-machining, hunting, fishing and berry picking were frequent and required activities. Mom was known to anchor a child or two with a rope to dipnet for Copper River salmon near Chitina.
Vacations were road trip adventures, always featuring cold chicken, potato salad, and bran muffins with a drink bought at a local store. While traveling to Whitehorse, the Palace Grand performances at Dawson with a night out for the folks at Diamond Tooth Gerties were such excellent camping adventures. The vacation loop always included a moose hunt and berry picking down the Taylor Highway on the return home.
Mom was known for her “moose” eyes, which our dad took advantage of by boosting her up on the luggage rack on the 1965 Ford Econoline van with a hunk of rope to dangle when she spotted anything legal.
Rebellions did occur with moss stuffed berry cans with just a layer of berries on top, running out of food on fishing trips or kids making themselves scarce during garden harvest time.
There was a time when Helen was called on to provide for the health needs in remote communities which could include small plane trips provided by bush pilot Floyd Miller to Glennallen delivering a baby enroute or caring for the very ill. Faith Hospital had a file named Pfeffer’s Nursing Service and sent medications to be dispensed when prescribed.
During the pipeline years Helen worked as a bull cook at the Delta Camp and the North Slope. Every six-week stint began and ended the same – Mom would come home to an empty pantry, which she would stock as soon as she got home and again as she left for work again.
Of course dad’s phone calls were frequent and always included, “I fed the kids on a buck and a half this week!"
Well, it doesn’t take much to understand how deep the pantry was getting raided!
Retirement did become reality when in 1978 moving the youngest part of the family to the Gardiner, Washington, where they graduated the last two from Sequim High School. In 1990 they moved into their new home in Sequim. Never idle, they volunteered for St Vincent de Paul Society and offered pantry and storage space in their new home for many years. St Vincent de Paul and Eucharistic Ministry became a big part of their lives as did RV trips to Alaska and cross-country travels to visit friends and family.
Helen's hospitality was known wherever she lived, always a parade of everyone’s kids walking through the front door to the back, taking time to frost a cookie, or eat freshly baked bread. Her tea parties are unrivaled. Helen has now joined her husband John who left us in 2009. She was pre-deceased by her siblings Inez, Don, Margaret, Jean, Ernie (Anne), Stella, and John, and her children John (Cheryle) and Patty. Helen is survived by her siblings Vera, Phyllis, and Russell, and children Penny, Robert, Mary, Loretta (Kelly), Bill, Teresa (Dave), and Jill (Mike), along with 17 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.
We are deeply grateful for the expertise and compassion shown by all involved in her hospice care. In lieu of flowers, donations to your local hospice or St Vincent dePaul are greatly appreciated. A funeral mass will be held April 8, 2022, at 11 a.m. followed by graveside services at 1 p.m.
As we begin our lives without Mom’s presence on Earth, we will remember her goodbyes by phone, “I love you. Bye for now."