Janet Ellen Helppie
November 9, 1927 – February 8, 2020
JANET ELLEN HELPPIE.
Janet Ellen (Colburn) Helppie passed away quietly on February 8, 2020. She was born in Orange, Texas, on November 9, 1927, to Norman and Alma (Ruble) Colburn. Her parents already had three children more than a decade older, and Janet’s birth was followed 19 months later by her sister and best friend, Joan.
Janet and Joan grew up in Gary, Indiana and Detroit, Michigan, doted on by their parents, two older brothers (Norman Jr. and John) and older sister (Mary). Janet graduated from Cooley High School in Detroit, where she met the love of her life, Richard Dean (“Dick”) Helppie.
Despite Dick’s first (of many) proposals to Janet at age 17, she chose instead to attend Olivet College, where she studied modern dance. But their love was strong and, at age 20, she dropped out of college to marry Dick at the Mayflower Congregational Church in Detroit on September 11, 1948. Still, Janet promised her father that she would finish her degree; and so, at the age of 42 and just a semester before her oldest daughter graduated from college, Janet was proud to keep her promise during her father’s lifetime, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Social Studies from Eastern Michigan University.
Dick and Janet’s love story produced 7 children, 30 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren (with 3 more on the way). They excelled at grandparenting, including keeping “Grandma’s Kitchen” open at all hours. After more than 68 happy years of marriage, Dick preceded Janet in death on March 8, 2017.
Dick and Janet reared their children in Wayne, Michigan, where they were active in the community, including the First Congregational Church, Scouts, dance lessons, the PTA, and various sports teams. They moved to the Dallas area in 1988 and traveled extensively around the United States for many years. They joined the Carrollton Senior Center, took up bridge, and played Scrabble daily.
Janet continued to pursue her love of dancing by taking tap and clogging lessons, and performing around North Texas for many years with the Skyliners Tap Troupe. Dick served as her cheerful driver and enthusiastic fan, his dance skills never coming close to Janet’s -- despite a few attempts at learning.
Throughout her life, Janet loved attending live theater and dance performances of every kind---including on Broadway, at regional and community theaters, and even at the local schools (whether or not she knew any students in the shows!). She passed on her dancing genes to her children (who all have a wonderful sense of rhythm) and grandchildren. Indeed, Janet’s youngest grandchild, Marin Rose, continues to thank her “Dancing Grandma” in all of her professional dancing bios.
In addition to her husband, Janet was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers and sister, her daughters Jane (Richard Enos) and Martha (Mark Mason), and her granddaughters Laura and Alisa. She is survived by her children, Joanne, Susan (Gary Shackelford), Richard Jr. (Leslie), Sally (Michael Stokes) and Mary (Tom Horstman), along with her sister Joan, 28 grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren, a large extended family, and numerous friends.
The family is certain that, during their three years apart, Dick has been working on his dance skills, and that he and Janet are now happily dancing together.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you honor Janet’s memory by taking a moment to dance with someone you love.
- Memorial Service Sunday, February 16, 2020
- Reception Sunday, February 16, 2020
Janet Ellen Helppie
February 17, 2020
Joanne, I'm so sorry for your loss and though I never met your mother, you have spoken of her and shared your family stories with me. Your family sounds very loving and supportive and I know you will help each other through this difficult time. Your parents had good lives and lived them to the fullest. They were models for their children. My love to all. Cathy
Chuck and Vali Helppie
February 15, 2020
Our deepest condolences to my cousins over the loss of their mother. Aunt Janet was one of our favorite relatives and we always enjoyed her company through the years. She possessed a unique combination of warmth, grace, intelligence and grit. She had a clear opinion for everything and yet she was always open to listening to opposing viewpoints, as long as you were able to defend them as well. We're sure our Helppie and Colburn relatives are profoundly saddened by Janet's passing but we hope all of you will find comfort in all of the loving memories you have of your lives together with her. With much love and shared sorrow, Chuck & Vali Helppie
February 15, 2020
I remember Aunt Janet as being very poised and articulate . I did not know her background story of her love of dance. I believe that explains it all!
Doug and I have just started dance lessons . Believe it or not our dance instructor is 90 years old! She said she loves dance more than anything ! We have decided to devote the remaining lessons to Aunt Janet’s memory and hopefully make her proud!
February 15, 2020
We feel so grateful that we had the privilege of knowing Janet all though it was for a short time. She is the Grandmother of our favorite Son-in-Law and the Great Grandmother of our precious Grandson. Over these few short years we had the opportunity to share meals with Janet and her family at different special times.
She was a sweet vibrant woman. She has moved on to an everlasting joy and peace. We are so sorry for the family's loss of this sweet Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother, Sister and Aunt. We know you will miss her bright light.
Jean & Hossein Pasvar