Helen Elizabeth Pfeffer
November 27, 1926 – March 21, 2022
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 and farm chores as well as walking or sledding before daylight to start the fire and clean the small cabin schoolhouse.
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 until finding an apartment above the Alaska Sportsman’s magazine office, 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 a convenient source of water. They were married in Ketchikan on October 3, 1952 and enjoyed many years together, living in 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. Traveling to Whitehorse, the Palace Grand performances at Dawson City, Yukon with a night out for the folks at Diamond Tooth Gerties were always excellent camping adventures.
That 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 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 low on food on fishing trips or kids making themselves scarce during garden harvest time.
This also was a time when Helen was called on to provide for the health needs in remote communities. This could include caring for the very ill and babies being delivered en route on plane trips provided by bush pilot Floyd Miller to Glennallen.
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 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 arrived and again before she returned to work.
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 became reality when, in 1978, moving the youngest part of the family to Gardiner, Washington, they graduated the last two from Sequim High School.
In 1990 our parents 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 visitations became a big part of their lives as did RV trips to Alaska and cross country travels to visit family and friends.
Helen’s hospitality was known wherever she lived. There was always a parade of everyone’s kids walking in through the front door and out the back, taking time to frost a cookie, or eat freshly baked bread. Her tea parties were unrivaled.
Helen has now joined her husband John who died in 2009.
She was predeceased by her siblings Inez, Don, Margaret, Jean, Ernie (Anne), Stella, John and her children John (Cheryle) and Patty.
Helen is survived by her siblings Vera, Phyllis and Russell (Helen) and her 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.
A funeral mass will be held at 11am on April 8, 2022 at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Sequim, Washington.
In lieu of flowers, a donation to your local hospice or St Vincent de Paul Society is appreciated.
As we begin our lives without our mom’s presence on Earth, we will remember her goodbyes, “I love you. Bye for now.”