The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Helen Gembolis Novito


SEATTLE, Wash. - Helen Gembolis Novito died in Seattle on Sunday, May 18, 2014, just two months after her husband of nearly 70 years, Frank.

Helen was born in Wakefield, Mich., on Sept. 1, 1922, the seventh of nine children born to Anton and Helen Gembolis.

After her father was killed in a traffic accident while he was walking home on U.S. 2 just outside Wakefield, her mother raised the large family with hard work and grit on the family farm. Yes, Helen had stories about how far she had to walk to school, the post office and church, and about how deep the snow would get and how cold the winters were. Even in her later years, she spoke wistfully of the farm, her brothers and sisters, and her Wakefield classmates - and, she would say with a twinkle in her eye, her boyfriends.

During World War II she followed an older sister to Seattle and landed a job as a bucker at Boeing, working on B-29s. She and her riveting mate, Frank Novito, caught on and in 1944 they were married and moved to West Seattle, where they resided the rest of their lives.

Helen's most notable characteristic was that she was a fiercely devoted mother to Wanda, Gail and Ralph. She expected her children to work hard and be respectful, and they did and they were.

Helen worked part-time in retail in Seattle stores, and in the 1970s she began working in school cafeterias. She enjoyed work and continued on even after Frank retired in 1992.

Well before healthy living was a fad, she and Frank started walking twice a day on Seattle's Alki Beach. (She never did learn to drive and was happy to walk to nearby stores to shop.)

Like others in their generation, she found herself living in a world where values about race, gender and religion were changing fast. She never wavered from a broadminded acceptance of people who were different from her and an openness and curiosity about new ideas.

Helen had a repertoire of stories she loved to tell and favorite observations she liked to make, many firmly rooted in her Wakefield years. They were standard fare at family dinners.

She and Frank shared a wonderful life, surrounded by their loving family and spending weekends at their cabin on Dabob Bay. They were members of Westside Wheelers and active members of the Holy Rosary Parish.

Helen was predeceased by her husband in March this year, and is survived by three children (two married); four granddaughters, and one grandson.


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