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Helen J. Smalley

Helen J. Smalley

Helen Smalley   1929-2024

 “Helen died.” At one of our family meetings talking about funerals, Mom’s reply to what she wanted for an obituary was, “Just put Helen died in the paper.”  There, we are doing her wishes, but did we mention…   Born in Monticello, Iowa in 1929 to John and Anna Gerdes.  She was an award-winning baton twirler and musician in high school.  Married in June of 1952 to Lee Smalley. Two children Dennis (Joyce) and Laura Reisinger (Robb), 3 grandchildren Robin Adams (Martin), Ryan Smalley (Melissa), Randi Strangstalien (Joel), and 8 great grandchildren.

Oh and a bit about her work life, too.  She started out teaching in a one room schoolhouse in Iowa where she met Lee.  She was a ward clerk, ER Tech, and Medicare Specialist in health care all in Menomonie.

Shifting gears now to what she liked to do. GLASS, glass, glass, she loved making beads at the torch, blowing hot glass, and collecting glass.  For as long as we can remember hand-blown glass ornaments were given to us at Christmas. She was really good at sewing and our basement was full of machines and fabric. We made bandanas and kilts together. Not just sewing, but she also was good at embroidery, cross-stitch, and quilting. She had two green thumbs, creating a productive garden of both vegetables and flowers with iris being her favorite. She constantly battled the deer and ground hogs that tried to eat her plants. Don’t forget all of her solar lights in the flower garden, beautiful both day and night. She knew where all the greenhouses and thrift stores were within a hundred miles. Like the street map of the Twin Cities, her recipes were in her head, and there weren’t many leftovers when she cooked.  She was a card player, word search expert, and loved watching sports especially Big Ten Wrestling. She retired in 1991 which allowed her to travel with her best friend Lynn Hunt in search of glass and flowers.  From Iowa to the west coast to Alaska, they made the rounds “keeping the roads hot and the gas tax up.”

 You left us with so many stories and life lessons… all the college kids you selflessly helped by opening up your home for them to live with us, asking them only to pay it forward, wooden spoons, making beads, piano lessons, crock parties, being our “Mother Teresa” and so much more. You are already missed!

A private family burial will be held at a future date.  So once again, “Helen died.”



  1. Kathy and Bob Hirsch

    I worked for Helen while in college at Stout State University. Pastor Don Wisner introduced us. I cleaned house and marveled at all the fabric she had in the basement. Your father was one of my teachers. I enjoyed going to their home for visits and just to see her birdhouses and garden. She was a great storyteller and had humorous tales. We laughed so hard, I could have cried. She will be greatly missed, as was your dad. In sorrow, we have many questions. In faith, we have the answer. May you be comforted by faith, that the Lord has brought her to a beautiful place of everlasting light and love W it’s sincere sympathy, Bob and Kathy (Adams) Hirsch.

  2. Robin Johnson

    So sorry to hear this. Helen was a wonderful person. I met her at snap fitness and we became friends. We took a couple road trips. She took us to a glass art place which I really enjoyed. Sending prayers to her family, she sure will be missed. ????????

  3. Jerry and Jan Traxler

    Your Mom was a great lady and a fun person to be around. She will be missed.

  4. Barbara Koppang

    Hi All,

    First my condolences for your loss. ????
    Helen sounds like she was an extraordinary woman! If I would have had a chance to meet Helen, I know we would have been friends.
    I live in Helen’s old house. I was so happy to see the sign that proclaimed “Helen’s Garden” when I moved in because I also love growing vegetables and flowers. I painted the sign yellow so that it showed up better to all who pass by, in honor of the Helen, I didn’t know.
    She and I share a love of Iris’s. I was thrilled to see them in her garden because they grew in my yard as a kid and I love them.
    In addition, she would have been happy to know that another artist (who has drawers full of beads!) lives in the house.
    I hope you will be happy that Helen’s memory lives on over here at Helen’s Garden.
    With my Condolences,

  5. Lucy Lammer

    Laura and Dennis and family- loved your mom's humor and wit! She was a favorite customer and I always looked forward to having a quick chat with her !

  6. Mary Ann Lambert

    Dennis and Laura, Roger Schaefer just let me know that your Mom has passed. I'd like to send my sympathy, but also send hugs to both of you. I loved your Mom's wit and sense of humor. (both of which she had to have to live with your Dad!). What a talented human. I wish I had half that energy and spunk. I still think about your Dad and Mom and all the others from fourth floor Harvey Hall back in the 70's. It was a great ten years for me. What great memories you have. Take care of each other and your families. Mary Ann (Bohl) Lambert

  7. Kristie Olson

    So sorry for your loss.
    Thoughts and prayers to you all.❤️????

  8. Carol VandeBerg

    She definitely was a light? Much to have learned from her.❤️

  9. Laurie R Weisser

    Both Bob and I worked with Helen at the hospital in Menomonie……she was a joy to work with and had so much knowledge! I loved her flower gardens too….

    Bob and Laurie Weisser

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