"When my ship comes in, I'm going to travel," Helen, a struggling mother told her kids. Meanwhile, she had great faith that the Lord would bless her everyday.
Helen's ship did come in - first class. Her sons entered the airline industry, and she was able to enjoy the sight-seeing she had long dreamed of.
The places she visited included England, South America, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.
Then in 1976 came her memorable trip around the world with fellow teacher Joyce McFetridge, whose daughter was also in the travel business.
Helen died at her son John's home Nov. 28, 2002. In her purse were found $2 labeled to repay her friend Alma Decker and another free airline pass from her son.
The ticket wasn't required though for the final voyage of this beloved mother, grandmother and great grandmother to join her Lord.
A graveside service will be held for Helen in July.
Helen was cremated, and her memorial held Dec. 8 at the Enterprise Christian Church, her spiritual home for 50 years.
There she taught Sunday School, worked on dinners, and received the support of ministers, staff and friends through the joys and sorrow of her life.
No grief was greater than the loss of the love of her life in 1968, when her beloved husband, Mel Barber, died.
Helen was born in Greenville, Illinois in 1915. She grew up in Roberts, Montana, and began her education in a one room school at age five. She graduated valedictorian from Roberts High School. Her talent for writing and poetry became evident during those school years.
Helen attended Normal School in Billings, Montana, then returned to Roberts to teach school. A year later, in 1935, she married Peter Pithoud.
One of the many jobs she would have, in addition to that of teacher and homemaker, was to work with Peter in their construction and upholstery business.
Helen's children, Lois, Marjorie and John, were born in her twenties. In 1949, the Pithouds moved to Enterprise where Peter built their home.
By 1950, Helen was working at the Wallowa County Chieftain, setting type, proofreading and manning the front desk for the editor/publisher, the late Gwen Coffin. Two years later she became deputy clerk for Wallowa County Clerk Marjorie Martin.
In 1959 she began teaching, mostly seventh and eighth grades in the Joseph School District. She retired 20 years later.
In 1963, Helen married Mel Barber. So, her second family, equally loved, came to include David, Peggy and Steve Barber.
Helen returned to college to renew her teaching certificate. Mel and her whole family, including her father, proudly watched her receive her bachelor's degree in elementary education at Eastern Oregon College.
Teaching and service to her family and friends were her great loves. She will be remembered for her legendary dinners, generous hospitality, and family reunions at her house.
Helen's students have fond memories of her English and writing classes. The World War II lessons, she could tell as stories, because she lived through those times.
Something that became history in her classroom, was chewing gum. She could spot a gum chewer by a twitch in the back of the jaw. Strict discipline was her trademark.
Helen was active in the Wallowa County Retired Educators Association, and the Helen Club. People were surprised that there were scores of Helens in the small community.
Over the years, as Helen's circle of friends expanded, many became as dear as family, some often stayed with her, and even attended Enterprise High School, across the street from her house.
Helen had taken out loans on that home to send kids to school. Helen's word was always good. She was never late on a payment, including the taxes on her house which she proudly remitted in person at the courthouse for 53 years.
In retirement, Helen remained in that family home, often spending winters with her children.
Helen also retained her business acumen over the years. In 1982, she began helping her daughter Marjorie build the Pup-E-Luv dog bed and clothing business. It was featured in People magazine and 19 national TV shows, including three days with Erma Bombeck.
Marjorie and Kurt Black now reside in the family home in Enterprise. Survivors also include her other children: Lois Miles of Helena, Montana; John and Darlene Pithoud of Draper, Utah; Jack and Peggy (Barber) Lindsay of Georgetown, Texas; David and Cathy Barber of Lake Wilderness, Wash.; Steve and Mary Barber of Vancouver, Wash.; and 19 grandchildren, and 31 great grandchildren, who bid goodbye with, "Thank you, Mom, Grandma, and friend for all you meant in our lives."
"You will be greatly missed by all, a beacon and an anchor (with an apple pie in your hands) is how we shall remember you."
We the family of the late great Helen Barber would like to extend our gratitude to Dr. Lowell Euhus, for never being too busy, and the loving, caring and knowledgeable staffs of Winding Water Clinic, Wallowa Memorial Hospital, and Safeway pharmacy who always helped make Helen comfortable and happy. She received treatment in five states, but none compared to that of her hometown.
Our thanks also go out to Rev. David Bruce and the leaders and fellowship of the Christian Church, and a wonderful loving community and great spirit of the people that cared enough to do their best, including love, prayers and support at the time of our loss.