Featured Resident – Helene McDaniel
Helene was born in Palco, Kansas, to Rollie and Amy Gibson. She had a sister, Betty, who was two years older than her. At the age of eight Helene was milking the cows by hand until they got a machine three years later. She was also responsible for running the seperator. As she says, she was her dad’s boy. By eleven she was driving a John Deere tractor as much as 8–10 hours a day when she wasn’t in school. The family moved to a 400 acre farm outside of Oak Grove, Missouri when Helene was around fourteen. They grew wheat, milo and corn as well as mowed and baled hay. Helene’s mom was left an invalid after a heart attack at 35. Helene graduated from Oak Grove High School in 1945. Their mother passed away at the age of 42, and their father passed away a year later from complications from surgery. He was only 43.
Helene met her first husband, Dennis Rossiter, while still living in Kansas, but lost track of him when her family moved to Oak Grove. Dennis was in the Army, and when he was on furlough, he looked her up and they reconnected their friendship. Fell in love and got married in 1946. While Dennis was overseas in Germany, Helene and her sister went to work at the Lake City Ammunition Plant. Helene and Betty who always loved to dance, spent there free time with the other military wives dancing, playing the guitar and singing, at various gatherings.
Helene and Dennis had their first child, a girl they named Peggy in 1947. They moved to Concordia, Kansas to help Dennis’ dad with the farm. While living in Concordia, Helene gave birth to their second daughter, Amy Jo in 1948. About a year after Amy was born they decided to move back to Oak Grove. Helene went to work for the phone company as an operator. She would work nights and take the girls with her. They slept in the room next to her while she manned the switchboard. Dennis went to work at Gleaner’s Combine Company. When he was laid off in 1952, he went to work at the Fisher Body Plant, where he worked until he retired 33 years later. Helene left the phone company and went to work at Bendix for a couple of years, and quit when their son, Kevin, was born in 1955. When Kevin was about five, Helene went to work at BMA in Kansas City. She was the supervisor over the entire accounting department for about 10 years.
Helene and Dennis divorced in 1966 and she moved to Kansas City. Helene’s second husband was Richard McDaniel, a retired military man, and long time acquaintance. After they were married they moved to Marietta, GA, to be close to Helene’s friends, Kenneth and Estelle. Helene got a job running the accounting department for a construction company and Richard worked as a security guard.
After five years they quit their jobs, bought a fifth wheel camper, and decided to travel the U.S. for about a year. They enjoyed California and decide to stay in Ramona, CA., at a very nice trailer park, where they stayed for almost four years. During most of this time they managed the park. They ended up moving back to Missouri, to help take care of Richard’s dad, who lived in Pleasant Hope. Helene did the office work at the locker plant for several years, then got a job as the office manager doing the accounting for a commercial construction company in Pleasant Hope. Shortly after Helene and Richard’s 25th Wedding Anniversary, Richard was diagnosed with lung cancer. He passed away in 1997. Helene continued to work and stayed in their home.
In 2006, Helene met Vincil Wood at a Senior’s Dance. He recognized her from seeing her play the guitar with Richard at a music show they had every Friday Night in Bolivar, for several years. Eventually, she quit her job and moved to his horse ranch in Bolivar, where they had a church sanctioned wedding. Vincil raised, trained and showed Fox Trotters. They had 10 wonderful years together before he passed away on July 29, 2016.
When Vincil passed away she moved to Westbrook in August, to be close to her daughter, Amy, and her son-in-law, Denny. She likes her apartment, especially the location and the patio. She thinks the people are nice, the food is good, the place is always clean. She quickly joined the Westbrook Prime Time Singers, and attends every music program and choir practice. She always looks forward to playing Bingo on Tuesday.
Helene has lived her life to the fullest, all 90 years! She was an avid antique collector, especially, furniture and dishes. She took up golf in the 1970’s and played a lot of courses in the U.S. , and in later years joined a golf club in Bolivar, where she played for many years. Richard and Helene both had their own motorcycles that they enjoyed riding. Vincil and Helene enjoyed going to horse shows, where Vincil, his son Mike, and Vincil’s grandson all competed.
Helen’s first love was music. She started playing the piano by ear when she was only seven years old. Later she self taught herself to play the acoustic guitar, bass guitar, mandolin, and the accordian all by ear. She was a member of a small band, where she played mainly the bass guitar, at a lot of nursing homes, special events, and local music shows. She sang with her sister as a young girl, and in later years with her daughter, Peggy. She was the song leader at the Christian Church for years, and was a member of the Sweet Adelines.
Besides her three kids, Helene has a son-in-law, one daughter-in-law, 5 grandchildren, ten great grandchildren, and five great great grandsons plus one more boy due this month.
Helene’s life’s motto is “Be kind to others, and they will be kind to you!”