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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Biography of Helen Schiebout, 1900-1999

Helen Mae Castenholz was born on June 16, 1900, in Ravenna, Michigan, youngest of four children and only daughter of Nicholas and Anna Castenholz. She grew up in Michigan, but also lived in Wichita and in El Reno, Oklahoma, where her Father owned a ranch. She traveled extensively with her Father, including around the world. She majored in Sociology and Economics at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and received her Masters in Art from Columbia University in New York.

She supervised art in the public schools of Grand Rapids, Michigan for twenty two years until 1944, when she married Joe Schiebout. Her daughter Judith was born in 1946. Joe remained in the Air Force after the war, and he and Helen lived in Oberammergau, Germany; Gulfport, Mississippi; Denver, Colorado; Taipei, Taiwan; Superior, Wisconsin; and San Antonio, Texas. In Germany, she helped persons in need in the aftermath of the war with donations sent from her schools in America. In Gulfport, Mississippi she was active in Girl Scouting, including assisting development of Scouting for African American girls in the area. She remained active in Scouting in Taiwan. She served as President of AAUW in Superior, Wisconsin and San Antonio, Texas and President of Delta Kappa Gamma in San Antonio.

After Joe's retirement in San Antonio, Joe and Helen spent time with Judith when she was pursuing the Ph.D. at the University of Texas and in her teaching assignments in Colorado, California, and LSU in Baton Rouge (beginning in 1976).  She and Joe were married almost fifty years when he died of a heart attack in 1993. A year and a half later, Helen suffered a stroke which required her to use her wheeled walker and to have a nurse’s help, when Judith was not present. For most of the time until her death on March 29, 1999, that nurse was Hazel Blouin.

Helen continued an active social life in her last six years, being Judith’s full-of-fun companion, attending meetings and social events with Judith and her colleagues and students and maintaining an active schedule of her own events with Hazel, such as the Campus Club Spring Fashion Show (where Helen had her own table), and meetings of Delta Kappa Gamma, AAUW, YAWs, and the LSU Retired Club. She enjoyed freehand cutting of silhouettes as gifts for friends and collecting stuffed animals, especially teddy bears, from garage sales to give to charities for needy children. She was a storyteller in the classic sense, with a wonderful story to tell from her long and rich life for any event. She was a joy to have around.

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