Juanita Grace (Gutsch) Helmer was born May 16, 1929, on a farm southwest of Burdick, Kan., in Marion County. She was the second of five children born to Carl and Dorotha (Peddycord) Gutsch.
Soon after her birth, the family moved to a farm east of Antelope, Kan., and Juanita lived there until she married.
She started school in the Grapes School District No. 54, walking two miles from the farm to school each day. In eighth grade, Juanita attended Lincolnville School to join her siblings. She attended high school there until her senior year, and then graduated from Marion High School in 1947.
After graduation, Juanita attended Emporia State Teachers College for two months and taught at Youngstown School District No. 61, with all eight grades and 18 students for two years. She also taught a year at Elk and one year at Antelope.
In 1950, she met and married William “Will” Helmer. They settled in Marion, Kan., where they raised their four children.
Juanita worked at the ASCS office. She also helped run a family business for 11 years, serving ice cream treats to the Marion community. She finished her working career with 24 years in the Marion County District Court, retiring in December 1993.
Juanita spent her spare time working together with her husband on numerous projects. They remodeled houses — their own and their kids’ — and she loved spending time together with Will, cooking and gardening.
After her husband passed away May 3, 2000, Juanita volunteered each week to visit shut-ins from Valley United Methodist Church in Marion. She called this her mission for Christ.
Soon loneliness led to a decline in Juanita’s health and after a short stay at Marion Assisted Living, she went to live with her oldest daughter, Ginger, under her care, until she suffered a stroke in May 2009. This resulted in a move to Salem Nursing Home in Hillsboro, Kan. Her final years were spent at St. Luke Living Center in Marion, where many knew and loved her. On May 30, 2013, she entered peacefully into eternal rest.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Will; her daughter, Ginger; her parents; two brothers, Bob and Charles; and a sister, Linda.
She is lovingly survived by her son, Galen Helmer of Marion; two daughters, Greta Smith of Marion and Gena Brand and her husband Merle of Yankton, S.D.; a brother, John Gutsch and his wife Sue of Lincolnville; seven grandchildren, Nicholas, Natali, Trevor, Tyler, Garrett, Gavin, and Garner; five great-grandchildren; and a multitude of extended family and friends.