Helen Perkins

Honored by:Ann M. Schultz
Brick location:F:12  map

Helen was born on May 6, 1923 at her parents' farm home in Todd County in central Minnesota on a dairy farm. Her parents Nicholas and Verbena Truog moved on the family farm when they were married in 1921 and took great pride in their herd of registered Holsteins. Her mother wrote much of the following at the time of Helen's retirement from the Iowa Extension service in 1990.

In those days we did not have milking machines and Helen was put in a clothes basket and taken to the barn as I helped with the milking until her brother Nicholas Jr. was born in 1926 when we bought a milking machine. When in her teens Helen could handle a team of horses as well as any hired man. She cut many many acres of alfalfa and was good at telling problems by the sounds of the machinery or action of the horses. She even operated the grain binder and her big fear was hitting a hive of bees in the ground when she was raking hay in the meadows.

We worked but did we have fun! After a hard day's work we always went swimming in nearby Pillsbury Lake and our 4-H club was named "Pillsbury's Best"! And it was! Her biggest achievement award was receiving the Danforth Scholarship award and a two-week leadership training at Danforth Camp in Michigan.

Family life was and still is very important to Helen. She had 10 cousins in the same school which was consolidated (one of the first). Her father Nick was on the school board before she started school. These cousins also went to the same St. Peter's Lutheran Church. Overnights birthday parties and family get-togethers made these cousins her best friends. Uncle Ed who lived down the road drove the school bus in good weather but had to use a team of horses in the winter. Foot warmers and horse blankets were good helpers to make the four-mile trip comfortable and fun. Aunts and uncles were her support system; one uncle taught her how to dance and an aunt had her wedding shower.

School was a challenge and she was always on the honor roll. In high school you could miss any class you wanted to if you had straight A's. Helen only missed one class and that was when her Grandfather was not feeling well and she ran over to his house (only two blocks away) to see how he was doing. Her grandfather taught her how to drive and was a second "Dad" to all the cousins as Grandma had died from cancer early. The cousins always stayed with Grandpa in town if there was something going on at night and be there for confirmation class on Saturday morning at the church across the street. It was great for basketball games and activities on Friday nights.

Graduation came in 1940 with Helen as class valedictorian in a class of 21. There was never a question about what she was going to do -- attend the University of Minnesota and major in Home Economics. However that was a pretty big step so it was decided that she would go to a new community college at Sauk Centre about 30 miles from Swanville. The big plus of this decision was that she carried on a courtship with Donald Perkins from Long Prairie who was attending the same community college. But this was cut short as the war started and Don left with the Long Prairie National Guards in February 1941 but by that time it was a steady relationship.

June 18, 1944: In spite of overseas orders Don and Helen were married. Helen had graduated from the University of Minnesota the week before and Don had received his Lieutenant's bars. In July Don left for Europe and Helen found a job teaching Home Economics at Anoka High School. Two years later found Helen as the Lutheran Student Counselor at Iowa State University. Don was a "legal" Iowa resident and could get into Veterinary College at ISU. Don graduated five years later with his DVM and three children--Robert (Bobby) Ann and Carin. Their first veterinary partnership was in Mediapolis Iowa with Dr. Warren Kilpatrick. Donald Richard Edward Faye and Gretchen filled out the alphabet to make A B C D E F and G. In 1960 the family moved to Cresco to join the Haight brothers Paul and Orlo.

This move made it possible for the family to be in a county-seat town and Helen took an active role in 4-H leadership. When the County Home Economist resigned in 1969 Helen applied for the position and was hired. It was a challenge to have a job four children at home and an active veterinarian husband. She tackled it with the same enthusiasm as having seven children - do the best you can.

She had two counties to serve - Winneshiek and Howard. Coming from a farm family and seven children she identified with the needs of her counties. Her first goal was to get a good Home Economics Advisory Committee in each county and hear their needs and priorities. The Home Economists in the area were a good group and they started a new idea of a very special day in each county with all the Home Economists giving presentations and demonstrations that had been identified as needs. It was a big success. The all-day conference on family topics generally was held in cooperation with Luther College and professionals looking for further training.

Helen gave training for young mothers in W.I.C., to nurses at the hospital, to leaders in 4-H, to 4-H members, to child-care providers, to organizations, and to anyone who requested a program. If she coudn't do it, she found someone who could. She received special honors for a home economist with less than 5 years of experience and ultimately was awared the R.K. Bliss Extension Citation in 1988 for distinguished service from the National Association of Extension Home Economics for her work on energy and housing. During her professional life she was honored by three honorary societies, Sigma Epsilon Phi, Onicron Nu, and Phi Upsilon Omicron.

Helen retired in 1990 with 20 years of service to Extension and 20 years of wonderful memories. She was most happy to receive a brick for the Plaza of Heroines, in honor of her 72nd birthday from her four daughters- Ann, Carin, Faye, and Gretchen.

To finish the family picture: husband, Don; and sons, Bob, Ed, and Don Jr, ten grandchildren ,and two step grandchildren. In retirement, Helen continues to volunteer for organizations, spent time with friends, participate in program committees, and is an active member at First Lutheran Church.