Helen Holst



Helen Verna Holst (McKinley) was born Sept. 10, 1932 to Lois (King) and George McKinley of Cannon Falls, Minn., and was the youngest of 11 siblings. Born during the Great Depression, her perseverance and prudent nature followed her through life. She completed school through eighth grade in one-room schoolhouses in Vesa and Burnside, Minn. She shared warm memories of her schoolhouse friends and stories all her life.

She waitressed for many years, which is how she met her husband of 60 years, Bill. He frequented the restaurant where she worked, Gypsy Trail, and would offer to help her with dishes. They were married in Red Wing, Minn. on Sept. 25, 1948. And he never did the dishes again.

From that union came six sons: Michael, Bill, Neal, Morris, Jeff, and Richard. Her sons were the pride and joy of her life. They moved from Haycreek, Minn. to their family farm in Diamond Bluff, Wis. in 1958, where she resided until her death. It was her favorite place. She enjoyed looking out her kitchen window as she, “kinda liked it here up on the hill.”

Helen lived for her family and was the glue that crafted a tight-knit one at that. She was a proud homemaker and farmer who was instrumental in the success of the farm. She enjoyed gardening, canning, and could make a meal out of nothing or anything all the same. In the fall of 2023 she received the “Golden Spatula” award for 75 years of cooking meals each day for anyone who’d join her at the breakfast table. You would never leave her house hungry or without an abundance of hugs. She made everyone she met feel special and like family.

Her good qualities were abundant. Helen found the good in everyone, and accepted people as they were. Moreover, she could never turn away a stray (two or four-legged) and tenderly cared for all her people and critters. She was gentle, honest, smart, kind, and loving with spunk and grit far larger than her petite frame. With her stick and an occasional shot of moonshine, there was no stopping her.

She was also a talented artist and painter for over 50 years, with countless Grand Champion and blue ribbons to her name. And even more of her works scattered in the homes of loved ones near and far. In her later years, she became a baptized Jehovah Witness and was devout to her faith.

Helen is preceded in death by her parents and siblings, her husband Bill, and her beloved son Michael. She leaves behind sons Bill (Nancy), Neal (Norma), Morris (Leah), Jeff (Dodie), and Richard, 15 grandchildren (and many more “adopted” grandchildren), plus many great and great-great grandchildren. She also leaves behind dear friends Mickey, Reid, Matt, and Fern.

In the words of Helen, aka mom, ma, grandma, and grannie, she “Loves you all big much. Always have, always will.”

Visitation for Helen will be from 4-8 p.m., Wednesday, June 5, 2024 at Mahn Family Funeral Home, Ellsworth Chapel, 587 W. Lucas Lane, Ellsworth. A private service will be held and burial at Oakwood Cemetery, Red Wing. Memorials will be donated in her memory to the Pierce County Fair Cultural Arts Program.