Helen M. Spencer (Hinrichsen), 94, died peacefully on July 18, 2020 at her granddaughters’ home, surrounded by family.
She was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 20, 1926, the daughter of the late John T. and Helen Hinrichsen. She was the youngest of three children, with one brother, the late Henry Hinrichsen, and an infant sibling who died at birth. She married Donald R. Spencer in Norwood Park, Illinois on October 11, 1947, who survives.
She was the daughter of German immigrants, and spoke of her challenging adjustment to Kindergarten where she was immediately immersed into the English language. Over the years, she spoke of the experience of being German during World War II. At one point, she changed the spelling of her name, while a student at Taft High School, to a Scandinavian spelling, in order to avoid ridicule. Her high school diploma confirms that. In grammar school, she was a member of the Norwood Post 473 Drum & Bugle Corp with her brother, Henry, where she played the fife. Helen was an avid tennis player along with her best friends, many of whom later attended Blackburn College together.
She graduated from Blackburn College, Carlinville, Illinois in 1946 with an Associate’s degree. She met Don there when he was home visiting family and rode his horse onto campus. Always an avid animal lover, she could not resist petting the horse.
As a young mother, she was dedicated to her children, David and Nancy. During her time in South Bend, Indiana from 1950 to 1964, she was a member of several Bridge clubs, and a member of the First Presbyterian Church, where she taught Sunday School. She was active in the Edison Elementary School PTA, a Den Mother for Cub Scouts with David, and Indian Guides with Nancy. She was a self-taught cook and seamstress, and loved to garden.
In later years, she lived in St. Louis, but traveled regularly to the family farm in Rosedale, Illinois, where she and Don later built their home. Her love of animals was always apparent, taking in stray puppies, kittens and baby birds, who fell from their nests. She regularly took care of the farm animals. The farm was a frequent gathering place for family and friends, and joyous times with her grandchildren. For many years, she was a realtor in the Jerseyville area. She was a member of the Rosedale Methodist Church, where she sang in the choir, participated on the Church Council and served as Labor Day Picnic Chair. When it was time to leave the farm, she moved to Jerseyville and joined the Jerseyville Kiwanis Club, where she enjoyed community service and weekly lunch meetings.
She is survived by her husband, Donald R Spencer, of Swansea, formerly of Jerseyville, Illinois; her children, David Spencer (Becky) of Buffalo, Wyoming and Nancy Grigsby (David) of Lodi, California; her grandchildren, Lauren Spencer, Daniel Spencer, Kelly Grigsby (Jenny), Sarah Emin (Tony), Leeanne Grigsby, Jonathan Grigsby, and Meredith Grigsby; her great-grandchildren, Michael, Taylor, Jillian, and Noah Caraballo; Enzo Emin; Nicholas Grigsby; Melanie, Adam (Michaela) and Zachary Cassulo; and one great-great granddaughter, Parker Mae Cassulo.
She was predeceased by her parents, brother Henry and sister-in-law, Marilyn Hinrichsen, infant sibling, and her great-granddaughter, Madelynn Grigsby.
A private, graveside service for immediate family only will be held at Rosedale Cemetery, Rosedale, Illinois on Wednesday, July 22 at 10:00 a.m. Arrangements are being handled by Alexander Funeral Home, Jerseyville, Illinois. Memorials may be made to World Bird Sanctuary, 125 Bald Eagle Ridge Road, Valley Park, MO 63088 or online at worldbirdsanctuary.org.
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