Helen Alice Voth Bertrand (86) died June 15,2023 in North Newton, Kansas. Helen was born June 8, 1937 in Daming, China to missionary parents William C. and Matilda Kliewer Voth. She joined older siblings Stanley, Leland and Maurine. Helen’s early life was one of near constant motion. In the first two years of her life her family relocated several times within China due to the presence of Japanese forces. The family returned to the United States on furlough in 1939. Over the war years and into the 1950s, Helen lived in several Kansas towns as William taught, pastored and travelled for the Mennonite Mission Board, while the family hoped to return to the people and work they had left in Daming. In 1951, Helen accompanied her parents to Japan. After three years of high school in three cities, Osaka, Miyazaki and Kobe, Helen returned to the United States where she reunited with her brothers as she attended Freeman Academy and Freeman Junior College. In 1959 she graduated from Bethel College and then spent a year earning teaching credentials. Instead of teaching she worked for a year at Prairie View Hospital as a psychiatric aide. These early years laid Helen’s foundation of faith and her love of people.
In 1961, Helen married Helmut Bertrand. Over the next couple of years, Helen worked in libraries in Newton and Manhattan, KS as they started their family. After a year in New Jersey the family moved to Regina, Saskatchewan where Helen worked at the Regina Public Library in the children’s department, the Luther College Library, the Saskatchewan Department of Education and Grace Mennonite Church. Her time based in Regina was enhanced by a year living in Munich, Germany and traveling through Europe, as well as a year completing her Masters of Library Science in Emporia, Kansas. While in Regina, she also nourished a lifelong love of the preforming arts with participation in choirs, volunteering with the Regina Symphony program committee, season tickets to the symphony and several theatre companies, and taking up ballroom dancing in her 50s.
In 1999, Helen decided to return to Kansas where she could be closer to family. She worked for 5 years at the Moundridge Public Library and filled her spare time with the Bethel College Mennonite Church vocal and bell choirs, Newton Community Chorale, dance classes and travel. Following retirement, she added volunteer work at the Mennonite Library and Archives, Kauffman Museum, and Book Reviews to her busy schedule.
Helen loved her Mennonite faith, books, travel, the performing arts and people. A master at remembering people and events, she delighted in meeting new people and figuring out how they connected to others in her life. As Parkinson’s disease took her ability to enjoy books, she became a fixture on the sidewalks of North Newton. To the end of her life, she delighted in getting outside to see the flowers and birds and meeting other people on her walks. Thank you to the people who watched over Helen on her perambulations.
Helen’s family is particularly grateful to the entire staff of Kidron Bethel Village where Helen received support, care, and love for so many years. She was blessed to have Rita, Sherry, Maggie and all the nurses, CMAs, CNAs and dining room staff on North Hall watching over her for the last 4 years of her life. The grace they extended to Helen and her family enriched both her life and theirs.
Helen is survived by her family, Karen Bertrand, Brian, Keith and Paul Adler, Keith, Jill, Jack and Alex Bertrand, Helmut Bertrand and Leland Voth.
A memorial service is being planned for a future date. Memorials may be shared with Bethel College, Bethel College Mennonite Church or Kidron Bethel Village.