The greatest blessing that filled the life of Helen Bruckbauer was that of devoted wife and mother. Helen was a woman of many talents and added much to the lives around her. Devout to her Catholic faith and proud of her German heritage, Helen knew the value of hard work and the importance of seeking God’s guidance. Although sorely missed, Helen leaves numerous memories to be treasured.
A decade of industrial expansion, the Roaring Twenties was an era of prosperity and good fortune. The spirit of America was evident as the Lincoln Memorial was honorably dedicated at a time when prohibition was law of the land. Yet life for Henry N. and Fredericka A. (Milheiser) Schmidt was filled with blessings on December 19, 1922 when they welcomed the birth of their little girl, Helen Antoinette.
Helen was born in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin suburb of West Allis at 600 65th Avenue where the Schmidt family made their home. Her birth was rough for both baby and mother as Helen was in a breach position, and as a consequence her left shoulder was injured during the birthing process. At the time of her birth, Helen was not breathing and her father prayed in earnest for his young daughter to begin breathing and his prayers were thankfully answered. From her earliest beginnings, prayer became an important part of Helen’s life. As a young child Helen’s mother would massage her arm and later her father made a device to help strengthen her arm and she continued using the device into her teen years.
Faith and prayer was paramount in the Schmidt home. They were members of Holy Assumption Church in West Allis where Helen was a lifelong member. She not only attended school and made each of her holy sacraments there, but she was married and came to raise her own family at Holy Assumption, too. Helen’s father’s family had been farmers in the Appleton, Wisconsin area. He studied design engineering by mail correspondence, and when her parents married in 1911, he left the farm for West Allis when he landed a job with Allis Chalmers. Her parents purchased their home on South 73rd Street in 1912 where Helen’s mother remained at home as a homemaker. A happy woman, Helen recalled her mother with fond remembrance always humming and singing.
Helen joined her older siblings, Louis and Ann. Their German heritage was important to her family, and they continued to celebrate their favorite German traditions. Helen and her older sister shared their room and bed, and it remained Helen’s very bedroom through the last of her days.
During her youth Helen enjoyed a childhood typical of the times yet the Great Depression was cause of economic hardship. Helen’s father was very strict and always walked to work, but when her family became the first ones to have a car, they were considered the “rich relatives” on her father’s side. When visiting her grandmother, Helen always had to stay with the adults while her older siblings and cousins played together. Her grandmother referred to her as, “Girly”, and Helen especially loved the end of their visits when she and the adults were treated to fruitcake soaked in brandy and a glass of her grandfather’s homemade wine!
Without a TV or telephone, communication was done by handwritten letters or by visiting. Their family made use of their old, hand crank phonograph, and the radio provided much entertainment. Helen loved Sunday nights listening to her favorite programs like the funny tales of “Fiber McGee and Molly”, Charley McCarthy and Amos and Andy. In her youth she learned to play the Hawaiian guitar and she liked needlepoint. Helen often walked to the movie house with friends where she could see a movie for a quarter. On ladies nights all the women received a free plate, and at matinees, children received a free candy bar. First run picture shows were seventy-five cents at the theater downtown, but Helen often waited until they came to their neighborhood theater.
Having attended Holy Assumption Catholic Grade School, Helen graduated from Mercy High School and went on to become a certified public accountant through Mt. Mary College. Her first job was at he Heinn Company where she worked until she was married. Through the years, Helen enjoyed dancing, bowled on a league, and it was always good to go on vacation. Some of the destinations she visited included California, New York and several Wisconsin resorts. She cruised on Lake Michigan, and Helen loved their many trips to the Wisconsin Dells. The death of her mother in 1946 at the age of 60 proved to be a trying time for Helen and her family, and it was truly the first sad day of her life.
Soon after, Helen met Daniel Bruckbauer, a handsome young man at a Catholic Youth Organization “CYO” dance held at her parish. Having recently returned from the U.S. Navy after WWII, he and his family were also members of Holy Assumption Parish. Even though Daniel was younger than Helen, she knew he was the guy for her when he knelt down to put her boots on her feet. He was such a gentleman, and she loved his good manners. They began dating and soon found themselves deeply in love. Happily married on June 12, 1948 at Holy Assumption, they were eager to begin their new lives together.
Helen and Daniel made their home with Helen’s father where Helen lovingly cared for him. Daniel worked for Derse Advertising as a display designer while Helen remained at home with their seven children, Geralynn, Frederick, Danette, LuAnn, Joseph, Mary, and Angela. Blessed beyond compare, Helen instilled in her children the same German, Catholic values for which she was raised. Helen and Daniel later purchased Helen’s childhood home from her father’s estate where Helen was pleased to raise her children.
As a mother, Helen bestowed her love through actions and left the disciplining to Daniel. However, she made sure her children completed their chores, although she may have been a little stricter with her four older children than the three younger ones! Helen believed if something was worth doing, it should be done right. She relied greatly on her faith and shared her faith with her children. Some of her best advice included, “Is that a Christian way to act?” or, “Wait till your father comes home, you won’t be laughing then”, when they were misbehaving. If they had a problem, she suggested they “Tell it to the Lord and things will work out”, “Quit your worrying. Where’s your faith?”, and often, “Say a prayer.”
When Helen’s children were all in school she began working as an accountant at the R & L Beyer Company, a local manufacturer where she walked to work and remained employed until retiring in 1985.
Helen made doing crossword puzzles a daily ritual, but the best day of her life was the day she married Daniel. Some of her happiest moments ever were sitting in an easy chair with her feet up, cuddling a new baby. She favored the color pink, and she loved a good cheeseburger. Although an Old Fashioned with brandy was her drink of choice for many years, in recent days she favored strawberry shakes. When it came to TV, she enjoyed musicals and comedies, but her favorite actors forever remained Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The holidays were a special time in their home where wonderful memories were made.
Like her mother before her and since the age of two playing with her dolls, there was nothing more Helen wanted than to be a loving and devoted wife and mother. Helen accomplished her one true desire in remarkable ways as she raised seven children by way of example. Her hope was to leave treasured, lasting memories in the hearts of those she loved. Helen loved her family deeply, and in them she found her greatest joy. She will indeed be remembered for her tenacity, strong, loving spirit and faith.
In 2011 when Helen needed additional care, her daughter, Angela became her caregiver. Yet when her husband Daniel died on January 9, 2007, life for Helen just wasn’t the same. She remained in her family home until entering the hospital December 23, 2015 where sadly, she later died.
Helen A. Bruckbauer, age 93, died on Saturday, December 26, 2015. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Daniel A. Bruckbauer; her brother, Fr Louis Schmidt and by her sister, Ann (Schmidt) Neckar. She was the cherished mother of Geralynn (John) Bath, Frederick (Terrie) Bruckbauer, Danette (Robert) Jenkins, LuAnn (Scott) Krueger, Joseph (Jodie) Bruckbauer, Mary (Paul) Seebruck, and Angela Bruckbauer. She is further survived by 14 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson; other relatives and friends.
Family and friends will gather Thursday, December 31, 2015 at Holy Assumption Church 1525 S. 71st Street, West Allis, WI 53214 from 10:00 AM until time of Helen’s Memorial Mass at 11:00 AM. To share a favorite memory or photo of Helen and to sign her online guest book, please visit www.SuminskiFuneralHome.com.
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