Obituary of Helen M. Latondress
Helen B. Latondress, 93, passed away on
February 4, 2021, after a short illness. She was born in Menasha, Wisconsin, on December 2, 1927, the daughter of Edward J. Latondress and Helen G. (Shekletzke) Latondress. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brother, Fr. John Paul (Jack) Latondress in 1988, and her brother Edward G. Latondress in 2019.
Growing up in a home on Little Lake Butte des Morts, she had a childhood of enjoying many outdoor activities. There was boating, swimming, fishing and having adventures with her best childhood friend, her brother Jack, and the neighbor kids. In a time of no swimming lessons, she became a proficient swimmer and enjoyed many activities on the lake.
In the summers during college and in the days of manual telephone switchboards, she worked as a Bell Telephone operator. She went to the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh (then Oshkosh State Teachers College), and graduated credentialed to teach English, history, biology and library science.
Her lifelong friend, Barbara Shunk, said that there are many ways to define Helen: brave, fun, adventuresome. She was willing to try anything, such as riding horses, undeterred even after falling off. She loved to travel, and Barb and Helen had many adventures, traveling to Hawaii, the Bahamas and Cuba. Together they spent vacations together at Clearwater Beach and after retirement they stayed in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where Helen's brother Jack was the pastor at St. Ignatious Catholic Church.
Eventually Helen and Barbara purchased a winter home in Timber Pines, a private community in Spring Hill, Florida, where they had many friends and wintered for 23 years. Helen enjoyed many clubs in Timber Pines. She was a member of the Quilters Club where she was probably the most proficient quilter. Her quilts are works of art using many interesting color themes and are completely hand stitched. Her quilts are a treasure to own. She also made beautiful knitted sweaters and crocheted quilts for the grandnephews and grandniece when they were babies. For her brother Edward she would knit argyle socks.
Helen was interested in many things. She was serious about staying healthy, working out daily at a fitness facility while she was able. She and Barb would bike 10 to 15 miles every day when in Florida. She loved music and with niece Rachel's assistance, had hundreds of tunes on her iPod. She was an avid reader and kept up with the books that were being discussed at that time. She recently read Elena Ferrante's new book, The Lying Life of Adults. She kept up with technology until recently and liked sending jokes to us via email. She was a very good cook, leaving behind many recipes printed from the computer and also handwritten. According to Barbara, she was the best cook on Wingfoot Court in Spring Hill and would invite and cook for groups of 20. She loved homemade cookies, especially in her later years.
Helen and Jack, always friends from childhood on, traveled together to Hawaii and did an extensive European tour. During their time in Italy, Helen and Jack had an audience with Pope John Paul ll. She was a devoted Catholic, a member of St. William Catholic Church in Waukesha. In a note to a Catholic friend, she wrote “Love is God's greatest gift.” That is how she lived her life. Jack's death in 1988 was the most grievous loss of her lifetime.
Helen ended her teaching career at New Berlin High School where she taught English. She had humor and dedication, and loved her job and students. A former student described her in a letter: “A lot of us were in your study hall that year. You called us your monkeys in the pit, a name that started with my friend Bob whom you called Bobert. There was a lot of laughter, but yours was the most popular study hall for those of us who were serious about studying and learning.” He also commented about his experience in her English class: “You were firm and demanding, challenging us to stretch. There were many enjoyable times, great discussions, and above all a great love for literature. I remember always feeling that you cared about me and the other students.” She was a master teacher.
As our aunt, she was all treats and toys from Treasure Island, parties and kiddie cocktails (with Bubble Up, an orange slice and maraschino cherry), trips to Menominee Park In Oshkosh, the beach and pony rides. She was the same with our children. Niece Rachel said Helen's house was like going to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. “We'd arrive and there were many clear glass jars filled with candy on the kitchen counter. She was an incredibly fun and playful aunt who was sassy and who liked to play jokes on us with our grandfather. She was a great cook, and I loved the glazed ham balls she made for us when we'd visit.” She loved children and at Halloween put a giant witch on her porch to greet the Trick-or-Treaters.
A lifelong animal lover, over her lifetime she had five miniature schnauzers: Max, Bennie, Schatze, Jake and Zak. It was a great sadness to her when she was no longer able to have a pet dog due to her danger of falling.
She leaves behind her friend of many years, Barbara Shunk, and special friends Sandy Wheeler and John and Sandy Finger of Waukesha who did so much to add to her quality of life.
She also leaves her nieces and their families: Christine (Joseph) Poziemski; Joseph (Elizabeth ) Poziemski and Helen's great-grandniece, Addison Poziemski; John (Sarah) Poziemski; Mary (Paul) Hartsuch and Rachel and Mark Hartsuch.
She was a wonderfully sweet person who will be greatly missed. Donations in Helen's name to Humane Animal Welfare Society, 701 Northview Road, Waukesha will be appreciated.
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