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Helen was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana to Norman and Helen Simmons. Her father worked in the paper mill, and her mother was a nurse. Helen grew up in a modest household with her two brothers Glen and Bunky. She always said that she got her strength of character from keeping up with the boys.
Helen was teaching at an Episcopal girl’s school in Lake Charles when she met her husband to-be, Jim Lackore, through a mutual acquaintance. The Minnesota boy and the Louisiana belle were married in 1959, eventually settling in Wisconsin, first in Madison, and then in Cross Plains.
Helen gave birth to two sons, Roger and Robert. Once the boys were out of their early years, Helen took a post as the “Nature Lady” for the Middleton-Cross Plains School District. She would lead classes of students into the hills, teaching them about the native flora and fauna. Robert recalls; “Helen was well liked by my friends, partly because her classes got us out of the school and away from the books. But I would cringe when she would show us an owl pellet, pulling it apart to show the mouse bones inside”.
Helen was an integral part of the Cross Plains community, serving as a municipal judge, and then running a daycare. The family worshiped for a time at St. Martins Lutheran Church, in Cross Plains, and then at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal in Middleton. Church family was tremendously important to Helen and she made sure that Jim and the boys were as involved as she was. The St. Dunstan’s community benefited from decades of support from Helen who gave hours of her time weekly serving on the Vestry and helping with the tasks behind the scenes that keep a church functioning.
Bird watching, hiking, canoeing, and camping were Helen’s favorite outdoor pastimes. She and Jim tent-camped with the boys in their early life, and then graduated to travel trailers in their later years. However, Helen’s love of nature was always eclipsed by her love for people. There were no strangers in her life, and she loved unconditionally. Her love began at home, but extended to everyone she would meet. “She was raised in the prejudice of the deep South in the 1940’s”, remembers Roger, “but she was the most loving and caring person I have known, to everyone.”
Helen left this world on a stormy night, the last day of March, 2023. Even during her three-year battle with cancer, Helen was always up-beat. During the last months she had made peace with the situation and was ready to leave. She passed peacefully. She is survived by her husband Jim. Helen’s legacy includes two sons, Roger (Marie) and Robert (Vera), five grandchildren Christopher (Alana), Alex (Dana), Kylie (John), Emma, and Owen, and three great grandchildren Mackenzie, Aveline, and Remi. She was loved as a grandmother by Aida and Sledja. She was adored by them all, and she will be greatly missed.
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