Cover photo for Helene Alice Kahlstorf's Obituary
Helene Alice Kahlstorf Profile Photo
1939 Helene 2020

Helene Alice Kahlstorf

October 9, 1939 — December 18, 2020

Helene Alice Short Kahlstorf was born October 9, 1939, in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, to Rev D. Robert Short and Helen E.M. Stuve Short. Her father was a Free Methodist pastor and college science professor, and her mother was a Registered Nurse. During her earliest years, the Short family lived in Barron, Wisconsin, but with the American entry into World War II, they moved to the South Side of Chicago while her father worked for the Civil Air Patrol. After the war was over the Shorts moved to various parishes in rural eastern South Dakota, including Brookings and Ortley. Helene attended high school and her first couple of years of college at Wessington Springs [SD] Academy and Junior College, where her father taught science. She spent a brief but enjoyable time at Seattle Pacific College before returning to Brookings, SD to complete her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. While in college at Wessington Springs Helene met Kenneth Kahlstorf, and the two were married on June 10, 1961. They made their home in Lake George, Hubbard County, Minnesota, where Ken was employed at Kahlstorf Lumber Co. Inc. Helene—freshly out of nursing school—was employed by Beltrami County as the County Health Nurse. Ken and Helene had two children, Delano Kent [1965] and Heidi Lynn [1969], but they also acted as secondary parental figures to many others through their work in local youth ministry at Kabekona Free Methodist Church. After her children were in college, Helene went back to school at the University of North Dakota, where she completed a Master’s Degree in Nursing, and later taught part-time in the nursing departments at UND and Bemidji State University. She also spent several years working as a School Nurse for Laporte [MN] Public Schools. Helene was a person of many interests, a few of which are mentioned here: Bemidji Christian Women’s Club, aviation with Ken as they both got private pilot’s licenses, Parish Nursing, downhill and cross country skiing, playing the piano and organ, and singing, serving as Camp Nurse for a variety of Free Methodist summer camps and at the Concordia Language Villages, hospitality at her home in Lake George, and as much international travel as she could manage. Helene and Ken’s grandchildren are a special source of joy to them, and they have poured their hearts into helping raise Stefan, Aidan, Brendan, Lily, and Amanda. Helene was well-known for being a positive, loving, gregarious, generous, friendly person, who made an astounding number of friends across the USA and around the world. She will be greatly missed by her family and friends—who love her dearly—but her strong, abiding faith in a loving God has now placed her in the caring arms of her Savior, where no more physical pain can touch her. Complications from diabetes and congestive heart failure led Helene to an admittance at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, ND, where she passed away, surrounded by her husband and children, who sang her on her way to her heavenly abode with her favorite hymns. Helene was preceded in death by her parents Robert and Helen Short, and her brother Dudley R. Short. She is survived by her husband Ken [happily married for 59 1/2 years!], son Del and his wife Kathy [and their sons Stefan, Aidan, and Brendan], daughter Heidi and her husband Mike Harvey [daughters Lily Kahlstorf and Amanda Harvey], sister Grace Anderson, and many nieces and nephews. Private family services were held Tuesday, December 22, 2020, at the Jones-Pearson Funeral Home in Park Rapids, Minnesota, with Reverend Ken Polley officiating. A public memorial service will be held in the Summer of 2021, hopefully, after the threat of Covid-19 has passed. The following is the eulogy that will be read at Helene's funeral by Heidi Kahlstorf Harvey; If I were to give a title to this eulogy, it would be this: “Part of coming is going.” Mom would say this regularly to Del and myself when we didn’t want to leave our friends at the end of a play date. Today we are saying it to each other, as we say goodby to a Mom and wife who we really don’t want to say goodbye to. It’s tough to know where to begin when your Mom was a truly extraordinary person, and you somehow have to talk about her in a meaningful way—when your own heart is full of so many emotions. So I’m going to focus on a few aspects of Helene’s life which will hopefully begin to describe her. Faith is probably the first descriptor I’d use for Helene. Her faith in God was at the very bedrock of her life, and the God she knew was a God of compassion, mercy, and love. Those qualities translated into speech and action on a daily basis. Her parents and extended family were rooted in the Free Methodist tradition, and she understood the world through that lens. Helene and Ken were the youth ministry leaders at their home church for many years. Helene was involved in church music from the early 1950's when she and her sister Grace—along with “the Brink sisters”—sang quartets on their Dad’s radio ministry program, till just a year or so ago when she eased into retirement as a church pianist after sixty years or so. Helene’s prayer life and appetite for devotional reading were a big part of her life, as anyone who has been to her home is probably aware. There are piles of books! She was nearly always involved with a women’s Bible study of one sort or another, and Christian Women’s Club had been a huge part of her life since the 1970's. Helene was involved with parish nursing for the past several decades, and—as an extension of her work as a parish nurse—served as a medical missionary in Russia, India, and Nigeria. Love is another word that describes Helene. As her children, we know that she loved us unconditionally, and she proved it daily in word and action. In difficult times she often said to us “I would do anything within my power to help you”—and she did. Helene and Ken are quite different personalities, and yet we always knew that their love for each other was genuine, and that love prevailed over any differences of temperament. What a great example of a healthy marriage they were! And Helene’s love for her dear parents gave her the strength to serve as their primary caregiver through their difficult last years. Beyond her own family, Helene developed bonds of friendship with so many people—from teens in her home church, to nursing colleagues, to “the dears” [as our Dad called them]: her friends from Christian Women’s Club. One of the ways she showed her love for her children was by making most of our clothes by hand: from corduroy slacks and button-down tailored shirts to three-piece suits and formal dresses. I could go on and on, but just know that the list is long and there’s no way I could list them all. Helene had moved so many times as she was growing up, that she knew what it felt like to be “the outsider”. So whenever she could, she made sure to help others feel like they were part of her “in-group.” And they loved her back! Helene and Ken have always been very generous people, both with their time and with their resources. But they have never wanted others to focus on that, so I’ll leave most of it to your imaginations and personal reminiscences. But I’ll mention one aspect of their generosity: when we were growing up we frequently had relatives and friends stay with us, for a night, a week, a month, or a big chunk of a year. Our Short grandparents parked a travel trailer in our back yard and lived there in the summertime for around ten years since they lived in Florida in the winters. Del and I just thought that was normal. Or we’d get home from school or work, and Mom would tell us that there were 16 people coming for dinner that evening—for the second or third time that week. She LOVED cooking and entertaining, and taught us to love it too. One of her famous sayings—related to hospitality—was “Save steps—use a tray.” From what I’ve already said, it’s probably obvious that compassion was a huge factor in Helene’s nature. That’s what drove her professional career, it’s what made her welcome young people from all walks of life into her home for youth parties and Bible studies, and it’s what caused her to become involved with parish nursing. The three paintings which hang prominently in our parents’ living room are “Jesus and the Disciples on the Emmaus Road,” Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal Son,” and “St Theresa of Calcutta with the Children.” I’d say these paintings do a good job of summarizing Helene’s compassionate nature, as well as some central aspects of her Christian Faith. I’ve already mentioned that Music was a big interest for Helene. We were always amazed when someone would hum a phrase of a tune she didn’t know and then she’d provide an accompaniment on the spot. What an ear! She was the first piano teacher for us and loads of the neighborhood kids. We all remember when she would sing “The Holy City” at church and raise up on her tiptoes when she got to the high note on the word “Jerusalem.” The last thing Del heard her play on the piano this October was “Jesus Loves Me,” with all of her trademark flourishes. Never to be forgotten. Though Helene was terrible at telling jokes, she loved humor, largely because humor brought joy to her and to others. She loved to laugh with people, and we will never forget her infectious smile and twinkling eyes. Helene was a person who strongly valued education, both for herself and for others. She enjoyed going to college—both because she thrived on new information, and because of her social nature. How many decades did she make a yearly trip to McPherson, Kansas, taking a van-load of teenagers to Central College for Central Youth Advance? From an early age she and our Dad called my brother “Dr. Del,” and sure enough, he completed a Ph.D. Probably as a result of all the brainwashing! Another aspect of this is the way she taught her children biblical literacy. We thought it was normal to know all the biblical stories and only discovered how truly fortunate we were in this respect when we reached adulthood. Positivity was intentionally practiced by our Mom, and it served her well through some difficult times, all the way till her last week of life. Part of this was expressed in her love of dressing with bright and varied colors. On the day before Mom died, her physician came into her room and said “How are you doing today?” Mom’s response was “I’m moving forward!” And looking back, she really did “move forward,” one day later. Mom would so often quote Romans 8:28: “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord, for those who are called according to His purposes.” I’m certain this verse was the reason for Mom’s positive outlook on life. Four other little statements Mom would often make which sum up her personal philosophy are: “Garbage in = garbage out” “We have to deal with what is.” “My freedom ends where your nose begins.” Use “I messages” to diffuse conflict. These served her well, and the rest of us will probably live by them too. Helene loved a good adventure, whether it was educational, intellectual, or travel. ESPECIALLY TRAVEL. Here’s the shortlist of places Helene—sometimes with Ken, sometimes with Heidi, sometimes with Aunt Ruth Short, sometimes with the whole family—went, not including all over the USA and Canada: China, India, Nigeria, Russia, Hungary, Poland, England, Scotland, Egypt, Israel, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Canada, Mexico, Panama, and Colombia. Plus, the whole family went to Puerto Rico for an extended 50th-anniversary celebration. So many great memories were made! A few words about the service today: the hymns we chose are some of the hymns Mom would still play at home on a regular basis. “Like a River Glorious” was still open on the piano when we returned from the hospital after saying farewell to her, for instance. The last words Mom said to our Dad were “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and give you peace.” And the verses from Philippians were quoted to us on a regular basis, and she and our Dad gave Del a plaque—which hung on his bedroom wall—with those verses in calligraphy. Mom would often tell our Dad that an event—whether a concert, a church service, or a book—was especially good if it made you cry. Well, we’ve cried an ocean of tears this week, but Mom had a really good life and a blessed death. We’ll see you again, “When We All Get to Heaven,” Mom!
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