Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Helen's Hollyhocks

About 30 or so years ago when I was the tender age of 20(ish)
I met Helen.
Helen was about 40 years older than I was, her kids were already
married and gone, she and her husband were retired, and 
most importantly Helen was a quilter!

Helen and I enjoyed a 30 year friendship.
You can read more about this extraordinary woman here
on a blog post that I wrote back in June 2011.

Last picture taken with Helen in the spring of 2011
with Me, Jenny and Mia.
Helen was 92 years old.
Helen was born back in 1918 and went thru
some very lean times in her life.  
Because of this she tended
to save everything!
Every spring her garden overflowed with Hollyhocks.
They were breathtakingly beautiful in all shades of pink and red.
I think Helen saved every seed at the end of the season.
Being a very generous woman Helen shared her Hollyhock seeds with me.
Did she give me a packet of seeds?
She gave me a big laundry soap bucket full of them!
I had so many seeds that one time I "Hollyhocked"
my daughters yard by waiting for a rainy day and
tossing some seeds down hoping they would take hold and grow
into a fun surprise.  Sadly none of them grew.  :(
This picture was taken several years ago of my hollyhocks
when they were just beginning to bloom.
Can you just imagine these stalks when all the flowers are blooming?

My plants have not bloomed yet this year
but this picture taken this morning shows the 
promise of beauty to come.
And with each flower I'll have a sweet reminder
of the friendship that florished for many years.  
I've shared Helen's Hollyhock seeds with many
of friends, so not only will my garden be
a little heaven on earth....theirs will too.
There will be little blooms of Helen all over the place!

Would you like some seeds?
Send me a message with your address and I'll be happy to send you some!
I think that Helen would be smiling down from heaven knowing
that her Hollyhocks were still bringing happiness and joy.

Have a happy day!

Repost of June 2011 blog:

Bittersweet Blessings

Thirty some years ago I was living in South Africa with alot of time on my hands while my husband worked there.  I've never been a person to let my hands be idle, so when I found an ad for a quilting class I promptly signed up and learned the basics of quilting.  By hand no less.  It was love at first stitch!

 Back in the early 80's quilting was enjoying a revival of sorts, so when I returned to the States, at the urging of my friend Lyn,  I joined a local quilt guild.  The Night Owls.  Heaven.  Loved it.  However, at the tender age of 21, I kinda stuck out like a sore thumb as the very youngest member of the group.  I learned alot from the older ladies who graciously shared thier skills with me, and even taught them a few things as well. (although looking back on it now I think they may just have been encouraging me on my quilting path)

There was one lady in particular who scooped me up and tucked me under her wing.  Helen Relfe invited Lyn and I over to her house to show us a new project.  When we got there she had set up 2 sewing machines, had a pattern and her fabric stash wide open for us to choose from.  WOW!  Helen's generosity and gentle spirit just warmed my heart and made me feel really special.  Lyn and I each made a dimensional  Christmas tree wall hanging that day.  It still hangs in our houses every Christmas.  If it were not packed away in my Christmas boxes I would take a picture of it and post it here.

That day began a life-long friendship between Helen and I.  I so enjoyed visiting with Helen and her husband Walter.  Loved hearing about her journey to the valley from her home in Northwest.  Loved hearing about what Phoenix was like in the early 30's.  Helen and Walter showed me all the best places to get bargains on fabric and quilting supplies.  Helen and I were friends thru thick and thin......the birth of my children, the death of her husband. We shared the love of quilting, exchanged recipes, stories and hollyhock seeds.  One year for Christmas I made gingerbread cookie people and wrote "Helen" and "Walter" on the cookies and put them into bags.  The last time I visited Helen's home those cookie bags were still hanging on the wall.   
My family always say that my stories are too long and I tell too many details, and take too long to get to the point.  (gee, I'm becoming my mother after all! lol)  (love you mom!)

So here is the point to my ramblings......

Helen passed away earlier this month.  She would have been 93 this August.
I went to visit her this week and was told that she had passed.
No one called me.
I missed her funeral.
My heart hurts to have lost her,
but rejoices that she is no longer in pain and
is with her beloved Walter
sitting at the right hand of Jesus.
Bittersweet blessings.

I found this after an online search:

 Helen Strohmaier Relfe

92, of Phoenix, AZ passed away on June 10, 2011. A first generation American, Helen was born in Vida, Montana, August 18, 1918, and married Walter Relfe in Salem, Oregon, on September 11, 1938. Helen's life was characterized by hard work, including employment with the City of Phoenix and the Arizona State House of Representatives. She also gave much time, energy, and resources to serve others throughout her life. She is survived by daughters Carole Lowery and Dorothy Colvin, six grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchild ren. Graveside services will be held on Wednesday, June 15, 2011, at 9:30 AM at Greenwood Memory Lawn, 2300 W. Van Buren.

This is the last picture I took of Helen. 
She was always a lady and always had her lipstick on. 

Rest In Peace
Helen Relfe
August 1918 - June 2011

I miss you Helen, but I will always hold you in my heart.


  1. I can almost picture your friend Helen now, smiling down at you from a field of Hollyhocks. What a beautiful tribute to a dear friend, who sounds like she was quite the woman.
    - Debbie

  2. What a beautiful post and wonderful memories for you to hold in your heart.