Helen Felt, age 100 ¾, died in Salem, Ore., on April 19 with sunshine on her face, surrounded by love, peaceful, and comfortable. Parkinson’s weakened her body; her mind remained strong until the end. Her last months were filled with a 100th Birthday/Celebration of Life with family, students and friends. They all shared wonderful stories about how she impacted their lives. Before and after the celebration in August 2015, she continued to have contact or visits with family, former students, spiritual counselors and other support persons until the day she died.
Helen was born August 16, 1915 in Denio, Ore., to Irwin and Marie Smith, the second of seven children. She grew up in a ranching environment in Harney County. Graduated high school in Burns, Ore.
Went to Oregon Normal School (now WOU) during the “Great Depression” to get a two-year teaching degree.
Helen married Chester A. Felt on December 25, 1938. They had two children: Curtis and Sharlene (BUHS “59 and “61). Chet and Helen were married 40 years. During their marriage, she partnered with Chet in their family business, Felt’s Jewelry and Gift, until he died in 1978.
While teaching, mothering two children, and helping at Felt’s Jewelry, she completed a BS from Eastern Oregon College. She, and daughter Sharlene, entered U of O summer 1961. They graduated together in 1964: Helen: MS education; Sharlene: BA history.
Helen taught in Hines (Burns): thirty years in elementary schools - mostly grades 5 and 6 – teaching not only the curriculum but music, sports, etc. She taught three generations of students. Many celebrated with cards, Christmas letters, and visits, through 2016. She was nominated for Oregon Teacher of the Year in 1974. She retired from teaching in 1976.
Helen also loved to travel. She traveled to Europe, China, Australia/New Zealand with Chet. Then, with Sharlene to Hong Kong, Russia, Mediterranean including Athens, Rhodes, Crete, Turkish Islands, Israel and Istanbul; and Thailand for a wedding of friends.
Major affiliations for Helen included Eastern Star, Nile, Masons & Shriners and the youth organizations. Episcopal churches in Burns and The Dalles fed her soul. She also was involved with 4-H, gardening club, senior center, and bridge club (genius player).
Helen moved to The Dalles in 1980 to be near Sharlene’s family. She was very active in the church and community until 2007 when she moved to independent living housing in Salem. But she always had a special place in her heart and a personal commitment to Burns. She kept two business storefronts open there through many lean years. Ribbons and Roses and the Book Parlor now house current sites. She and Sharlene funded renovations, roofing, etc. Helen will return to Burns to be laid to rest with her late husband, Chet.
Husband, Chester, and son, Curtis, precede Helen in death. Sister, Ervene Morgan; daughter, Sharlene Walker of Salem; 6 grandchildren, and 10 great grandchildren survive her.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make donations to Shriners Hospitals for Children, 3101 SW Sam Jackson Park RD, Portland, OR 97239 or Episcopal Churches in Burns or The Dalles.
A Celebration of Life/Burial will be held in Burns this summer.
Visit Keizer Memorial Chapel’s website at www.keiserchapel.com to leave condolences and memories.
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