On Saturday morning at 4:30 a.m., Helen Martha Koile passed away at the Oelwein Health Care Center after a courageous battle with cancer.
Helen was born on August 13, 1929 in rural Shady Grove Township to Jerome and Mary VanDaele who both immigrated from Belgium to Iowa. Helen attended school in a one room school house until she graduated from the eighth grade upon passing the State of Iowa Eighth Grade Examination.
At the age of 17, Helen married Keith Koile on November 22, 1946. The newlyweds lived together in a house they shared on the southwestern edge of Fairbank along with Helen’s brother Robert and his new wife, Maxine.
Helen was at her husband’s side as they began farming in rural Fairbank, where they started their family. Together they had four devoted girls; Carolyn Dettmer, Marolyn (Phil) Boynton, Marge Mika and Lisa (Marty) Schares. For a short time they farmed in Sanborn, WI. Helen cherished her role as a mother and raised her children with love and dedication. Helen was a devoted Grandmother to Carrie, Jeff, Pam, Jeremy, Jennifer, Marie, Michelle and Mason and a Great-Grandmother to Josh, Derek, Domanick, Madison, Tylor, Cory, Brianna, Bradon, Keagan, Kelsey and Reese.
Helen enjoyed children so much she secretly wished she could have become a school teacher. She devoted many hours to helping her daughters and grandchildren with their daily school assignments and making a game of practicing flashcards. For 52 consecutive years Helen dutifully made sure her daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren caught the school bus each morning they were in her care. Each one enjoyed the benefits of having “Grandma’s Taxi” available and on call.
Helen loved attending the school activities of her daughters and grandchildren. They could count on her to be there. None of them can recall a time she missed a program. Many community members commented that it was rare for Helen not to have “the little people” tagging along with her. Many were amazed at how well behaved those children were. It was kept a secret that the children were promised a “cream cone” for their good behavior.
Helen also loved all animals. This trait was passed on to her “little ones”. She enjoyed taking care of new born calves and was known to shelter a stray or two; giving them a good meal and sending them on their way. If any were injured or sick she would try nursing them to health.
For 35 years, Helen held a cleaning job at the Fairbank American Legion. The fruits of her labors were dubbed “pocket change”. Numerous times she saved that money for a big purchase such as paying for one daughter’s wedding. Helen also devoted much of her time to planting and tending her garden. “The girls” often gathered and made a day of canning the fresh vegetables Helen grew. The “little ones” preferred to “harvest” fresh strawberries from the garden.
For many years, Helen also looked after her sister Alice on an almost daily visit. Helen also assisted with running “The Hideaway” while her eldest daughter owned the local tavern. Later, when it was time to relax you could often find her reading a book from the Fairbank Library or sitting on her front porch just enjoying nature.
Helen was the backbone of her family and was the one whom everyone knew they could count on. Helen lived by the “golden rule” along with the values and morals she was taught as a child. She kept the memories of her parents and childhood alive by sharing stories of the “good old days”. She was a role model for her daughters and an icon for her grandchildren.
Helen was very proud of her Belgian heritage. She was blessed with being a conversationalist, often known as the VanDaele gift of gab. Helen often repeated the words of her father Jerome, “It doesn’t cost anything to talk.” Helen also loved to dance and listen to music. It was at the Oelwein dance hall, the Coliseum, where Helen met Keith her husband of 64 years. One of her favorite dances was the Circle Two Step.
It was also that “good Belgian blood” that kept Helen in perfect health up until her later years. In spite of battling progressive and frightening health issues, Helen handled each day as it came with grace and love.
Helen was preceded in death by her daughter Carolyn of Fairbank, four brothers, Rob, Art, Rene and Julius VanDaele all of Fairbank, one sister, Alice VanDaele of Fairbank and a son-in-law, Phil Boynton.
Helen is survived by her husband, Keith Koile of Fairbank, three sister-in-laws, Becky, Angie and Maxine VanDaele, three daughters, eight grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren.
Helen will be greatly missed and we will celebrate her life, both here on Earth and eternally.
VISITATION: 2 – 8 p.m. Tuesday, December 14 at the Geilenfeld Funeral Home in Oelwein with a Rosary Service at 4:00 p.m. and Scripture Service at 7:00 p.m.
SERVICE: 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, December 15 at Immaculate Conception Church in Fairbank, with burial at the church cemetery, close to her daughter Carolyn and so many others she loved.