Helena M. Parker, 88, of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, passed away Tuesday, July 22, 2014, after failing to recover from a fall and back surgery. Interment will be in Goodland, Kansas, with a private ceremony for the family.
Helena Marie was born December 23, 1925, in Sharon Springs, Kansas, to Dorothy and Vincent Kvasnicka. Immediately after high school graduation, she challenged her father over a woman’s traditional role versus that of having a professional career. Against his wishes, she enlisted in the Cadet Nurses Corps, which had recently been established during World War II as part the US Public Health Service. Helena completed her training as a cadet and registered nurse in 1947 at Asbury School of Nursing in Salina, Kansas. She served out her cadet commitment at hospitals in Kansas, eventually settling into work at the Sherman County Hospital in Goodland, Kansas. There she cared for a patient, a sailor home on leave and injured in a car accident, who would later ask for her hand in marriage.
Helena and Jerry H. Parker were married on May 7, 1950. After several moves in the Midwest due to Jerry’s career with Commonwealth Theaters, they settled in Scottsbluff in 1966. A year later, Helena began work at then-West Nebraska General Hospital where her career included helping to establish the first coronary care unit and later the intensive care unit. When she left the hospital, she joined the teaching staff at West Nebraska Community College and was as an instructor from 1977-1990 in the practical nursing program.
Helena often said her greatest joy and sense of fulfillment were the years she spent teaching. It was not uncommon for a former student, of which there were many, to approach her with a big hug. Her students dearly loved her, and she instilled pride in their hearts for their role as an LPN.
In retirement, Helena was a passionate gardener—her yard was a favorite when it was on the garden walk. For years later, you could still catch someone stopping to take a peak over the fence because it was a “show to behold.” Her membership in the Serenity Garden Club lead to the establishment of the pathway garden behind the YMCA, which is still maintained today.
Her husband Jerry preceded Helena in death in 1968. She is survived by her brother Lee Kvasnicka; her two children Jeralyn P. Finke (Fred Finke) of Seabrook Island, South Carolina; Curt D. Parker (Tracey Parker) of Niwot, Colorado; and grandchildren Hayley Parker and Corey Parker; Kathy Tando, her dearest friend whom Helena called her blessing and “adopted” daughter; and her beloved cockatiel Missy.
In Helena’s memory, the family only asks that you take time to thank a nurse, appreciate a flower, take joy in a bird’s song, make a stranger smile with an unexpected joke or compliment, and then give a friend a hug.