Helen Marguerite was born on Sunday, July 21, 1929 in Paisley Ontario to parents David and Annie (Kincaid) McGregor. She was a middle child in a family of 10. The family owned a small store in Paisley. Helen attended and finished high school in Paisley.
At an early age Helen went to work. The first job was delivering the Owen Sound Sun Times to the south end of Paisley while her sister Verna covered the north end. Then she went to work at Theakers Variety store in Paisley. With their large family they were all expected to contribute to help run the household. On weekends she loved heading to the arena to watch the local hockey team or attending local dances with her friends. On one such night at the Pavilion in Port Elgin she met a young man by the name of Willard Charles Calhoun. The two hit it off immediately and after a short courtship married on June 7, 1947 at the McGregor home. The young couple settled on the Calhoun homestead on the 10th of Elderslie. This “town girl” learned quickly how life was on the farm and she and Willard worked hard raising pigs, chickens and milking cows.
In 1950 they started their family and the Calhoun clan began to grow with the additions of Dennis (1950), Rod (1953), Doug (1955), Cheryl (1957), and Marlene (1959). They worked hard raising their family and making a living off their farm. Many years Helen accompanied Willard on his fall trips to the west to buy cattle. Driving to sales barns and ranches to purchase calves to send to Ontario. On one trip they packed up the car with three of their young kids and drove west. Willard sold the car to a rancher to sweeten the cattle deal and Helen had to pack up the family and come home by train. These fall calf runs continued for years and as the kids got older Willard and Helen would stay for upwards of a month travelling to ranches and sales barns to buy their calves. Willard loved the west and reluctantly Helen watched three of her children move west. In later years those trips west were to see their children and Alberta grandchildren. Helen’s last trip out was in 2015.
Helen was an active volunteer in the community. She was a member of the Williscroft Women’s Institute and Dobbinton UCW, a coordinator for the Community Catering Group in Chesley, a 4-H leader, and an assistant judge for baking at the Chesley Fall Fair. We can’t even imagine the number of pounds of Christmas Cake and Gum Drop cake that Helen made with the Dobbinton church women to raise money for the church. She was always willing to help wherever it was needed.
Helen loved to sew and knit. She made many of her own and kids clothes. She worked tirelessly on making her one of a kind square dance dresses. Then she channeled that energy into knitting. Every grandchild received a special knitted item, a sweater, hat or mitts from their gramma. She curled, square danced, and lawn bowled. Willard and Helen joined the Sloans on the log sawing circuit and were quite competitive. They competed at community fairs and Timberfest competitions and travelled as far as Michigan to compete. Helen had a competitive streak and she brought home a few trophies she was very proud of. She truly enjoyed these adventures, the camaraderie and the social component that goes with it.
Helen was extremely gifted in the kitchen. She loved to cook and bake. Her famous “Flapper Pie” was a staple at all family functions and was frequently requested whenever she was going somewhere. She often had to feed numerous work crews during haying and harvest time. Taking hot meals to the field, packing lunches for them or feeding them at the table. Willard would regularly bring unannounced guests home at meal time and in a matter of minutes she was preparing and serving a fabulous meal including dessert to all.
In the fall of 1977 the Calhouns built their “castle on the hill” a mile east of the Homestead. Helen loved hosting backyard BBQ’s, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas for the family and no one wanted to miss one. The new house was the perfect place for her to enjoy feeding and watching the birds.
Helen and Willard travelled extensively seeing most of Canada, the US, including Hawaii, Barbados and Bahamas however, Florida became their winter home. Helen continued to winter in Florida until 2010. When not travelling Helen was an avid Maple Leaf and Blue Jay fan and we always knew where she would be on game day cheering on her team!
Helen loved her family dearly and they always came first. She was very active in the lives of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren teaching them how to bake, cook, and decorate cakes. She always attended their hockey, ringette, baseball, gymnastics, track and cross country events whenever she could.
Life forever changed for Helen in 1996 when she lost her beloved Willard to cancer. Although devastated, her strength and determination allowed her to continue on and later she showed her incredible strength to overcome her own cancer diagnosis. Helen was known as a strong, thoughtful and patient woman. She was full of fun and full of life and always loved a good joke right to the end. Everyone loved her. In recent years Helen’s health began to decline, moving to the Village in 2012 before entering her final home, Brucelea Haven in 2017. She passed away on Thursday, September 20, 2018, surrounded by her family, at the age of 89.
Loving mother of Dennis of R.R. #3 Chesley, Rod (Carol) of Swalwell, AB, Doug (Brenda) of R.R. #2 Dobbinton, Cheryl VandeGraft of Calgary and Marlene Bosse of Meaford. Helen will be dearly missed by her fourteen grandchildren, twenty six great-grandchildren and siblings Verna Cormack, Jimmy (Jean) McGregor, Enid Fenton, Vivian McGregor (Connie Mayjere). She will be fondly remembered by her extended family Peggy McGregor, Blanche Elder, Leonard (Pat) Calhoun, Ron (Marlene) Calhoun and Donna Bryce. Helen was predeceased by her husband Willard (1996), daughter-in-law Rosemary Calhoun, son-in-law Ed VandeGraft, great-grandson Tate McCallum, siblings Dorothy Ellis, Francis Webb, Jean Cobean, Duncan and Jack McGregor and special friend Margaret Gregg.
Visitation will be held at Rhody Family Funeral Home, Chesley on Monday from 6 - 9 p.m. A funeral service celebrating Helen’s life will be held at St. John’s United Church, Chesley on Tuesday, September 25, 2018 at 1 p.m. Interment in Chesley Cemetery.
Memorial donations to Dobbinton United Church or the Chesley Hospital Foundation would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.Send to friend