Helen Leinweber Lawrence (HS’33)
Luther College’s Oldest Living Alum
Helen (Leinweber) Lawrence (HS'33) is the oldest (known) living alum of Luther College, born in 1915. Helen is hard of hearing so her daughter, Linda Lord, was more than happy to provide us with an overview of how her mother – a former teacher – lived out those many years post-Luther College.Helen’s father, Rev. J. Leinweber, was the Chaplain at Luther College High School from 1932–1934 so it’s no surprise that her parents would have chosen for her to attend Luther. Linda says that her mother often talked of driving home from school on the dirt roads with her father. In addition to those many drives with her father, Helen cherishes many lifelong friendships she made at Luther.
After graduating from Luther College High School, Helen obtained a Bachelor of Education, with a minor in French, at the University of Saskatoon with – Linda notes – high marks. The late 1930’s found Helen teaching Business Education at Watrous High School in Watrous, Saskatchewan during the day and teaching Typing and English at night school. It was at night school that she met Linda’s father, for whom she gave up teaching. As a member of the air force Linda’s father was stationed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, so Helen gave up the job she loved in order to move to be with him. Many years later, she would return to teaching.
Helen married in 1940 and would spend many years as a homemaker, mother to two children, and bookkeeper for the successful nursery business that she and her husband would run together after their move to Calgary, Alberta. It so happened that the superintendent of a high school lived across the street from them and, knowing of Helen’s teaching background, encouraged her to come back to teaching. After she and her husband divorced, that’s exactly what she did. She went on to teach French in senior high school for over nineteen years in Calgary.
Her commitment to teaching – and to her students – was a beautiful thing. One of the most respected teachers at the school, loved by all, she also served as the French Department Head, and the school’s Guidance Counsellor. Helen’s commitment to her students was evident when she declined an offer to be the Principal of the school, a promotion that would most certainly have included a salary hike. According to Linda, Helen knew that if she became Principal she would have to give up her role as Guidance Counsellor and she didn’t want to lose this special relationship with the students.
“Everyone loved her,” Linda says. “She was strict but very fair. She commanded (...not demanded) people – her students – with mutual respect. She made classes very interesting. They hung on every word.”
After Helen retired from teaching in 1980, she moved to Sidney, British Columbia, to make the most of her retirement: reading, playing bridge, gardening, and volunteering at Peace Lutheran Church. She has slowed down considerably with age, as one would expect, but still very much enjoys time with her children, seven grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren.
Clearly, Helen was a teacher who made a difference in the lives of many of her students, and we at Luther College are proud to honour her as our oldest living alum.
Editor’s Note: We learned just prior to printing this issue that Helen Lawrence passed away one day prior to her 102nd birthday. Our thoughts are with her daughter Linda and all her family and friends.