Helen Buchinski, formerly of Manning, Alberta passed away on April 7, 2021, at the age of 90 years. She spent her final days at the home of her daughter Barb, surrounded by her children.
She was born Helena Wrzosek on October 26, 1930 in Webster, Alberta, the third child to Alojzy (Alois) Wrzosek and Jadwiga (Jean) Salacki. Her parents emigrated from Poland in March of 1927, just two months after their marriage. They broke ground on a homestead near Webster and had twelve children: Monika, John, Helen, Agnes, Irene, Jean, Conrad, Betty, Lucy, Ambrose, Edward, and Mary.
Helen’s childhood was warm and family-oriented. She had many responsibilities on the farm, including foraging for mushrooms and berries, milking, butchering chickens, and tending to the fields. When time allowed, she loved to crochet and cross country ski. She was also a caregiver to her many younger siblings – some admitted that they thought Helen was their mother!
Helen loved school and had aspirations to become a teacher. However, the one-room schoolhouse she attended only went to the ninth grade, and to attend high school she would have had to be sent to Grande Prairie. This, along with the death of her sister Monika in 1945, meant that Helen was to end her schooling and help with the farm and family.
On May 23, 1949, Helen met her soulmate, Joseph Buchinski. Their mutual friend Father Michalowski brought Joe to Helen’s home to meet her. Joe met Helen’s family over dinner, and when Helen was washing the dishes Joe left the table and came to help her dry. She said that this was the moment she knew she wanted to marry him. They met only once more in their short courtship to discuss wedding plans, and shortly after that she received an engagement ring in the mail.
They were married on June 12, 1949 in Webster, and the next day left for Helen’s new home in Manning. There they operated the Melrose Bakery until 1952, when they built the Star Lite Cafe. The 1950s saw the birth of their first four children, David, Janice, Paulette, and James.
Following the birth of James, they rented out the cafe and constructed a new building next to it. The new building housed Joe’s General Insurance and Real Estate, Joe’s Sporting Goods, and the Canadian Coachways depot. Through the 1960s the rest of their children, Barbara,
Vincent, Katherine, and Doug were born.
Helen and Joe were the best of friends and partners in life and business. Helen, always looking to learn something new, took an insurance and a typing course to assist with the business. Their years of raising children were hard work, but they always had room in their
hearts and home for others. Newcomers to the area would often knock on Joe and Helen’s door and have a place to stay. One night, George Smith was at their door, and he stayed with the family for 38 years.
On Christmas Day each year, Joe would bring travellers from the bus depot to their home for a meal before sending them on their way. Helen was able to cook for 40 people at the drop of a hat, which she would do time after time as the family continued to grow. Joe and Helen loved their garden, which had an incredible raspberry patch and provided them with a prolific harvest through the summer months. They decorated wedding cakes together, and would always leave little pieces of icing for the kids to discover the next morning.
They took a trip to Hawaii for their 25th anniversary, and in their later years enjoyed travelling to Poland and throughout Alberta to visit their many relatives. They would take the bus all over Alberta on “Grandma Tour,” where they enjoyed many, many games of cards with their kids and grandkids.
Helen loved to play bingo, which she rarely missed, and cards. She was a lucky card player, and it will forever be a mystery whether she was cheating or if she just won more often than other people. A favourite trip of Joe and Helen’s was Las Vegas. When Helen first learned to play blackjack, she played until the next morning, had breakfast, and stayed awake until the following night!
Helen had boundless energy and enthusiasm that only seemed to grow after Joe’s death in 2001. In her later years she attended the Hotchkiss Guitar Camp twice, where she learned to play guitar. She also took a course on oil painting, then produced 40 beautiful paintings. These were given to each of her children, grandchildren, and some special friends.
She also kept busy with her crochet, and made a great many blankets for everyone in her life, including each of her 21 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. She had been making a stockpile of blankets so that her great-grandchildren who were not yet born could still get one after she had gone.
Helen was a long-time resident of Manning. In 2007, she moved across town from the family home to live next door to her granddaughter Jami. Jami and Graeme cared for Helen in these years, often cooking for her and enjoying her company. Helen could often be spotted at the North Town Esso, having her coffee and visiting whoever would stop by. She also loved to visit her friends at their homes, and at the Del Air lodge.
In December 2018, to be closer to some of her children, Helen left Manning to live at an assisted living apartment in Leduc. There she made fast friends with many of the residents. In between frequent family visits, she kept very busy with the scheduled activities, including
cards, exercise class, and bingo.
Helen was an amazing woman, who was the anchor and centre of her family. She weathered the hardship of the loss of her husband Joe in 2001, and her sons Dave in 2000, James in 2008, and Doug in 2019, along with her children-in-law Colleen in 2001, Fran in 2006, and Ky in 2013. She accepted these hardships with faith and grace. When her own health was failing her, she was able to share moments and say farewell to each of her children, grandchildren and many of her great grandchildren.
Helen leaves behind a legacy of family, love, and a life well-lived. She is mourned by the people she has touched, including her children, Jan, Paulette (Paul), Barb (Rick), Vince, and Kathy (Darrin); her grandchildren, Jami, Jodi, Jon, Myles, Mark, Brandon, Dustin, Kurtis, Darren, Michael, Theresa, Tim, Jessica, Stefan, Joe, Tom, Logan, Hayden, Rachel, Jordyn, and Ryan; and great-grandchildren, Sadie, Nora, Jasmine, Izzy, River, Florence, Hazel, Darwin, Kendall, Peyton, Jacob, Michelle, Mason, Brooke, Max, Ivy, Emma, Trent, Gemma, and Melrose.
Helen was the loving centre of our large family, and her light will shine on in our hearts. Her ashes will be laid to rest at the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Notikewin. A live-streamed Private Memorial Mass will be held on Saturday, June 12, 2021 at 1:00 PM from St. James the Major Catholic Church in Manning. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alberta Lung Association or the Manning & District Palliative Care Society.
Nos plus sincères sympathies à la famille et aux amis de Helen Buchinski October 26 1930 April 7 2021..
Décès pour la Ville: Peace River, Province: Alberta