Dorothy Elizabeth (Lahti) Helin
Our sweet, small, smiling, story-reading, God-loving Finnish Dorothy (Granny Dot) …. Born 04/15/1932 in Waukegan, IL, passed away from natural causes at home in Stoughton, Wisconsin on 10/16/2023. One of Dot’s favorite quotes is from Anne of Green Gables, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers…Look at these maple branches. Don’t they give you a thrill? ” Dot always loved autumn, and it seems apropos that she quietly slipped away from us while lying in the living room as a distant neighbor’s huge maple tree showed off its color beyond the window.
Dot, preceded in death by her parents, Lida and Urho Lahti, and her husband Eero Anselm Helin. Survived by children, Scott (Raelene) Helin, James Helin, Marla (Jon) Janssen, Grandchildren Leah Helin Hazle (Mike), Kyra Helin (Kurt Komyati), Hunter (Mollie) Helin, Dorie Janssen (Collin) Arkin, great grandchildren, Oliver and Hadly Helin, Marlie-Joy Arkin, baby boy Arkin (due Dec 2023).
Memorial Services will be held at 4:30 PM on Friday, October 27, 2023 at Good Shepherd by the Lake Lutheran Church, 1860 US Highway 51, Stoughton. Supper and fellowship will follow. Friends may greet the family from 4 PM until the time of service Friday. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to Good Shepherd by the Lake for local mission’s funds.
Finding her Essence, A Tribute to “Granny Dot”- Dorothy Helin
Sharing her life in Beach Park, IL, Anchorage, AK, and Stoughton, WI
“There are many Beth’s in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind.” Dot’s favorite quote from Little Women, one of her many loved books.
As a child, Dot had been painfully shy, so she related to the character Beth. When she married Eero in 1952 at age 19, he “dragged” her out of her shy shell with promises that she would quickly learn to love visiting over coffee with many friends, and together they jumped into their Finnish community, volunteering, dancing, and having coffee (and donut) dates. They would have sixty-four wedding anniversaries! Like Marmee in Little Women, who urges her children to give to those in need and keep blessings in perspective, Eero and Dot raised their children up in the atmosphere of volunteering and giving time and love to people, a treasured quality to pass on to children! Little Women inspired Dot because, “it is about perseverance through hard times, about relying on those closest to you, and about helping all those who come into your path.” Through the years, there were many times Dot and Eero stayed by the bedside of someone who was terminally ill, or volunteered in community groups, or helped or took into their home teens who needed urgent support. They believed in forgiveness, second chances, and that having open doors…. means you care about someone who does not have one to walk through. As a child with two boisterous, mischievous brothers, Marla once asked her mom, “I already forgave them 70 times 7 times, Mom… so now what do I do when they make me so mad?” Dot replied, “Sorry, honey, but you have to start all over again!” Dot and Eero practiced forgiveness and giving throughout their lives.
After Eero passed away in 2016, Marla asked Dot what she wanted shared one day in a tribute… Dot replied that she just wanted some important moments shared, and “not too many dates that make peoples’ head swim.” Dot talked about how she lived her life in three different states but had good friends and beloved family in many. She treasured friends and family with whom she worked, laughed, shared stories, ate donuts, prayed with, and talked about children and grandchildren. She hoped all her family members and friends knew they “were the icing on her life.”
Dot claimed the brightest lights in her life included her faith in Christ, and “everyday joys like taking care of her grandchildren Leah, Kyra, Hunter and going to their soccer games, going on adventures and walks “by the sea” with granddaughter Dorie, dancing with Eero, as they travelled through life together, and taking short coffee jaunts and long weekend trips to Seattle with her daughter. She also shared how she “immensely enjoyed” all the little league softball games with Scott and James, family vacations up north in Wisconsin, and the precious years with her parents and cousins. In more recent years, Dot felt special when son-in-law Jon took her to Sunrise restaurant after Eero passed away. She anticipated phone calls from son Scott, Raelene, and family, who all live far away. Dot even claimed to enjoy watching golf with son, James. (We believe that snacks must have been involved!) What was most striking is that her most valuable memories were always about people and being with them.
Dot considered her two most fulfilling activities over the past years to be reading stories to children and working with the volunteer director of Providence Hospital; she started in 1968 as a librarian at Beach Park Elementary School. Dot continued reading stories to all the children that came into her life, including helping with a Stoughton afterschool program, and an Anchorage, AK preschool. Granny Dot also relished meeting a friend, Thijs, at our local bakery and teaching him to write cursive when he was young, and having loved friendships with Braydin, Raven, and Maddie, whom she also met at our bakery. She more recently read to children at Stoughton’s Pumpkin Patch preschool and laughed about how when she arrived at the classroom door, the kids would yell out, “Granny Dot!!!” She was so tiny, she learned to brace herself by the wall ready for kiddos to run towards her! Then in 2017, Dot began reading stories for her YouTube channel – Granny Dot’s Imagination Station - and she was happy these stories would be available to children everywhere for years to come. (You might want to check out, “Amelia Bedelia’s First Library Card!”) When her first two great-grandchildren were born, Granny Dot recorded books starring their names, Oliver, and Hadley, on YouTube for them to enjoy one day. During the past two years, Granny Dot glowed with every visit from her newest little, Marlie-Joy! No matter how she was feeling, visits from Dorie, Collin and Marlie-Joy brought a smile to her face and energy to her spirit! She had been looking forward to the newest little due this December.
As her dementia got worse, and memories from events and friendships faded, she still showed great delight when people visited. She always had a smile and was full of cheer when guests arrived. Years ago, during a visit with friends, Dot shared that her childhood dream was to one day be glamorous…to be tall and elegant… Well, she never made it to even five feet tall! So, she did not make it to “tall and elegant,” but she made it to adorable little lady, and she decided that was good enough! Her “Glass half-full” philosophy served her well in these later years when life became difficult. Her faith got her through with hope and peace.
Family friend Laura Roeven recently spoke of a dream my mom had shared several times with her. Dot dreamt that she was in a field, and the field was full of children, and they were all singing, “Jesus Loves You” to her. She was so happy when she thought of that dream and the joyful fields. After a challenging time for six years with vascular dementia, and after living several years past the expectation she had with heart failure, this week her dream has now come true, and her future is all about joy.
I would like to give a special heart-felt thank you to Dot’s friends for being there for her, to my brother James and my husband Jon for helping me with so many caregiving roles over the past years, and to the Stoughton Senior Center for many supports, to Agrace Hospice for appreciated assistance… and to Pastor Todd at Good Shepherd by the Lake Lutheran Church for his kindness and encouragements. Thank you also to our joyful respite helpers, Maxine Johnson and MaryAnne Irich, and to so many friends and family members of ours who have walked this with us in prayer and with hands-on help! This has been a long journey filled with joy and worries, challenges, and laughter. Thank you all from Marla and family.
Funeral service at 4:30 -5:30 pm at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church by the Lake, 1860 U.S. 51, Stoughton, with Supper and Fellowship to follow.
Cress Funeral Services
206 W. Prospect Street, PO Box 231, Stoughton