Helen Mary Kroeger, age 81, passed away at Pine View Good Samaritan Center in Valentine, Nebraska, on Friday, March 15, 2013 at 9:15 p.m., with her family surrounding her.
Helen was born July 21, 1931, in Rushville, Nebraska, to Frances Johannah Pfisterer and John Matthias George. Her father was killed in an auto accident near Eli, Neb. five days prior to her birth. Helen’s mother then married Victor L. Hoffmann, and to that marriage two boys were born - Thomas and James Hoffmann. Helen attended school in Nenzel, Neb. through the 10th grade, transferred to St. Agnes Catholic School in Alliance, and following a year long illness, graduated from Chadron Preparatory in 1950.
In the summer of 1952, Helen started dating the man who would become her husband of 60 plus years. Having to cancel the original date of November 18, 1952 because of blizzard conditions, Helen married Alvin “Jim” James Kroeger on November 19, 1952 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Nenzel. Unable to travel to Denver for their honeymoon because of the weather, Helen and Jim instead went to Omaha, where they visited various friends and relatives. Shortly thereafter, Jim was drafted into the U.S. Army. After completing his tour of duty in Korea, Helen and Jim spent the majority of their married life on their ranch north of Cody, Neb., and later moved into their final home directly east of the main house.
Being a “Mom” was Helen’s one and only desire, and over the next few years of trying, Helen and Jim found that Helen was unable to carry children to full term. Helen and Jim were instead given 12 little angels. In 1957, they adopted their first bundle of joy, Donna Marie, and then in 1959 their second bundle of joy, Douglas James. Helen was also a second Mom to many young men who spent their summers on the ranch during haying season.
After the children were raised, Helen helped Jim with ranch work, which included being Jim’s official tractor driver when feeding the livestock and was quickly retired as his scatter raker in the hayfield because she seemed to have a strong attraction to fence posts. She would later work at Cody-Kilgore Unified Schools, under their Green Thumb Program, for several years.
Helen had a love for gardening, cooking, baking, decorating cakes, sewing, knitting and crocheting, embroidery, and being an avid reader - the love for a good book. She loved playing piano and organ and played both in church and accompanied the high school choir at the school in Cody. She enjoyed her computer and being able to play mahjong, solitaire and slot games on it. She was a member of Beta Sigma Phi, the American Legion Auxiliary, St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Altar Society. For 17 years, beginning in 1977, Helen was an EMT for Sandhills Rescue and Cherry County Hospital and Ambulance. After retiring from ranching, she and Jim enjoyed traveling to visit their children and grandchildren. She also enjoyed attending church related activities with Jim, including Marriage Encounter, Cursillos, and participating in mass as a Eucharistic Minister.
In July 2011, Helen had surgery in Kearney to remove a large tumor located in the left frontal lobe of her brain. After spending several weeks in Kearney, she was transferred to Immanuel Hospital and eventually to Millard Good Samaritan Center in Omaha, with Jim staying in Omaha to be with his love each day. In October, Helen and Jim were able to return to their home and spent the next eight months together, with Jim and Helen now reversing roles. Unfortunately, Helen suffered two brain seizures in July 2012, which ultimately lead to her living at the nursing care facilities in Ainsworth and then Valentine. The finality was Helen breaking her hip. Her health went downhill from there, and she was never able to fully recover. Through it all, Helen maintained her smile, her sparkling eyes and pleasant personality, though her quality of life had left her. She was the nursing and care staff’s favorite patient and resident wherever she was.
Survivors include her husband Jim, of Valentine, formerly of Cody; daughter Donna (Simon) Ohori, Omaha, son Douglas (Shirley) Kroeger, Cody; two grandsons, Jerry (Michelle) Butler of Omaha, and Cory (Jami) Butler of Papillion, Neb.; two granddaughters, Shelly (Jason) Townley of Grand Island, Neb. and Sara Kroeger of Rapid City, S.D.; six great grandchildren: Hannah and Hailey Butler of Omaha, Edyn Butler of Papillion, and Angel, CJ, and Josh Townley of Grand Island; two brothers, Tom (Jeanette) of Nenzel and Jim (Nancy) of Mullen, Nebraska; along with nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her father John George, stepfather Vic Hoffmann, mother Joann Hoffmann, along with her angels and infant child Sally.
Services will be held later this spring. Holmes Funeral Home will be in charge of the details which will be announced at a later date. Memorial contributions in Helen’s honor are welcome and should be sent to the memorial of your choice.