View Full Version : Helen Ann (waananen) Lalonde 01/01/23 - 23/04/2010

28-04-10, 22:24
LaLonde, Helen Ann

January 1, 1923 ~ April 23, 2010

Helen Ann LaLonde of Vancouver, WA, passed away on April 23, 2010. She was born Jan. 1, 1923 to Aili Elizabeth and Robert Waananen in Butte, MT. She was a first generation Finnish-American and had "sisu" (Finnish, meaning to have perseverance) all her life. She did not have a mother after the age of four. She did not have a grandmother. Who can understand what she must have faced?

Abandoned by an alcoholic father, she was given as a foster child to the Oscar Huhtanen family, who were raising their own 10 children. There she stayed until the age of 10. This was during the Great Depression and life in America was about survival. It came to be that she was placed in the Montana State Orphans Home in Twin Bridges.

Discovered by an uncle, who had been at sea as a merchant marine, she was moved to Hockinson, WA to work as a mother's helper. Leaving an abusive situation, she was taken in by "Mother" Elizabeth Granlund of Granlund's Hatchery and graduated with honors from Battle Ground High School. Helen attended Northwest Business College. She was employed by Alcoa as a switchboard operator and stenographer during the early part of World War II.

In 1943, she enlisted in the Navy, as a member of the WAVES (Women's Auxiliary Volunteer Emergency Service), received her boot camp training in Miami University in Oxford, OH, as well as doing duty at Hunter College in New York, NY. She became one of the first women to be named a radioman 3rd class, and received orders to Bainbridge Island, WA to work on deciphering codes. Due to her vulnerability of being a 1st generation American, she was placed in isolation to perform her duties, stationed at Tongue Point Naval Air Station in Astoria, OR. There she worked the radio radar screens searching for submarines on the West coast.

For recreation, she walked to Astoria to attend dances at the Suomi Finnish Lodge and at Amatto's Supper Club. Helen earned an honorable discharge from the Navy in 1946 and kept in touch with her Navy buddies throughout her life.
After the war, she worked as a head bookkeeper for the Lower Columbia Dairy in Astoria until responding to work as a mother's helper in the Marvel Rogers home. Later she worked as a bookkeeper for Encyclopedia Britannica balancing the salesman's accounts to the penny.

Attending a party on the Curtin homestead (now Thornton's Tree Farm), she was introduce by her high school friend, Doris Curtin, to Clarence Curtin "Cal" LaLonde. Helen said "that she met the man she was going to marry, but he doesn't know it yet". Their courtship has become family folklore, for Helen had been told that Cal only dated a woman 10 times. On their eleventh date she took his hand and said "Goodbye, it has been nice knowing you". This ploy and her Dolly Parton figure caught the man. Engaged on June 16, 1947 they spoke of having a ranch house and wanting seven children.

Married on August 9, 1947 in St. John's Catholic Church, they built their ranch house on the 1904 Clarence Edward LaLonde farm, a diversified dairy, having seven children, raising livestock and growing strawberries, raspberries and potatoes commercially, while managing time to be heavily involved with school, community and church activities, such as the Clark County Fair, 4-H and scouting. Helen worked during her life for Pay-N-Take it, Goody Potato Chip, Luepke, Main Street and Battle Ground Florists as a full charge bookkeeper.

Helen was small, only 5 feet, one inch, yet powerful and fierce. With the LOOK, she controlled much behavior, be it at home or as a field crop boss. It spoke volumes about expectations to work hard and to achieve. Generations have grown up knowing exactly where her boundaries were. She lived a life totally devoted to the home she created, for it made up for the family she never had while growing up.

She was a superb seamstress, learning to do well with little, tailoring business suits, square dance dresses, fabricating Pendleton men's shirts, sewing quilts, as well as creating wedding dresses for her daughters.
Helen hung laundry as if it was an art, an accomplished homemaker, the family cookbook is into it's 3rd edition. She devoured books like her family devoured her food. She loved dancing, even once breaking her foot while doing the jitter bug with three men. An avid gardener, she was happiest working outdoors and her yard was the centerpiece for family parties and bridal showers. She befriended many, nursed her mother-in-law, mentored the neighborhood children and always stood on the side of justice and doing right. She continued lifelong alliances with her foster siblings and reconnected with former orphans from the Montana State Orphans Home during a 50th year class reunion.

After several heart attacks, many strokes and near blindness, she fought for her health to the end, remaining feisty, independent and determined in the face of lung cancer.

Helen was a member of Barberton Grange 571, American Legion 176 Salmon Creek, St. John's Catholic Church, Catholic Daughters of America 2105 and the Columbia River Ripples WAVES Vancouver.

Helen is survived at home by her spouse of 62 1/2 years, Cal LaLonde; four remaining children, son, Tim LaLonde (Luan) of Vancouver; daughters, Denise Fairweather of Gearhart, OR, Beth Skaggs (Don) of Vancouver; son, Mike LaLonde (Jeannette) of Gearhart, OR; 10 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Three daughters preceded her: Pam in 1958, Yvonne in 1958 and Adele in 1989; as well as a brother, Sulo "William" Waananen of Butte, MT.

A Celebration of Helen's Life will commence with the recitation of the Rosary at 10:30 a.m. and a Mass at 11:00 a.m. on Fri., April 30, 2001 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 8701 NE 119th St., Vancouver, WA, followed by interment at St. John's Catholic Cemetery with military honors.

In Helen's memory, donations may be made to Catholic Daughters of America 2105.
Arrangements have been entrusted to the Hamilton-Mylan Funeral Home.

Published in The Columbian on 4/27/2010