Helen Marie Ryan Rambo Christensen, age 74, passed away on April 27, 2018 after a battle with breast cancer.
Helen was born in Deer Lodge, Montana, on March 18, 1944 to Margaret “Peg” Breslin and Pat Ryan. Her first home was the Ryan family ranch near Race Track, later moving into Deer Lodge where she attended St. Mary’s Academy. The family ranched in Townsend, Twin Bridges, and Sheridan where Helen graduated from high school in 1962. She attended Carroll College majoring in Elementary Education and making many life-long friends. Her passion was politics, so the Carroll Young Democrats provided opportunities through which she met Sen Ted Kennedy, saw President Lyndon Johnson, Sen Mike Mansfield and many others. Helen also loved music and sang in the Carrolleers where she and talented soloist, Art Rambo, first met.
After graduating from Carroll in 1966, Helen moved to Anchorage, AK where she taught school while Art entered the University of Notre Dame to complete a degree in Chemical Engineering. In 1967, she and Art were married in Dillon, MT and moved to South Bend, IN where Helen taught in an ungraded classroom at Alexis Coquillard Public School. The next spring, Art was offered a contract with Texaco, Inc. and they moved to Craig, CO where, two days after arriving, their daughter, Kerry Lynn was born. In August, Art was drafted into the service and the little family moved to Libby, MT to be near Art’s parents. Helen taught at Asa Wood Jr High School until she was able to join Art at Ft Sill, OK in February 1969. Art shipped out to Vietnam in August and Helen moved to be near her family in Dillon where their second daughter, Amy Denise, was born in September. Art was reported killed in An Loc, South Vietnam in November 1969.
Helen returned to school, completed her MEd at Western Montana College and taught third grade at Parkview Elementary. She met LT George “Chris” Christensen on a blind date and fell for the tall, funny, wonderful guy who loved her girls and they were married in 1973. They moved to Helena where Chris was employed by the State of Montana and Helen resumed her political activism. Their daughter, Molly Jean, was born in 1975 and son, Reid Ryan, joined the family in 1976.
She worked for Congressman Pat Williams from 1980 to 1993 as a field representative and campaign political director. She was employed as Writer-Researcher by the Montana AFL-CIO when she and Sheena Wilson began making plans to start their own business. They recruited Katrina Martin to join them and in 1996, the three partners opened Ryan and Maclean Tea Room, a successful restaurant and gift shop in downtown Helena. They sold the business in 2003.
Subsequently, Helen worked for the Institute for Money in State Politics, then the Office of Public Instruction until her retirement in 2007.
She and Chris loved to travel, especially with friends, and visited Russia, Eastern Europe, Spain, Italy, Greece, England, Scotland and made repeated trips to Ireland where Helen visited her cousin, Evelyn Truesdale McMahon, in County Antrim and her genealogical search found family in County Limerick. Returning home, Helen continued extensive internet research on the Ryan, Martin, O’Rourke and Breslin families.
she loved quilting and sewing Halloween costumes, mending beloved stuffed animals and fulfilling miscellaneous sewing requests for her eleven grandchildren. She and Chris were active supporters of every activity in which their grandchildren participated – whether it was soccer, piano, art, skiing, lacrosse, football, basketball, baseball or school plays. Helen loved nothing more than having the entire family 19 strong at the family cabin near Seeley Lake.
A proud liberal, Helen was active in Democratic Party politics and many social justice causes. She was a member of Our Lady of the Valley parish and was a board member of both the Helena Education Foundation and the Good Samaritan Ministries and Thrift Store.
She is survived by her husband, her children – Kerry Strike, Billings; Amy (Mark Stiffler) Christensen, Helena; Molly Croft, Fleming Island, FL; and Reid (Stephanie) Christensen, Helena. Grandchildren – Spencer, Will and Kate Strike; Abby, Ellie and Jane Stiffler; Ryan, Lily and Anna Croft; Cole and Max Christensen; Sister, Kathryn Pugh; sisters-in-law Mary Smith, Kathleen (John) Bache and Patty Rambo; brother-in-law Dan (Kathy McFarland) Rambo and many nieces and nephews, as well as special adopted family Brad (Janay) Murphy, Colin (Linden), Devin and Brynn Murphy; Misha (Victoria) and Masha Pryadilnikov.
Preceding her in death were her husband, Art Rambo, her parents, Pat and Peg Ryan and her sister, Peggy Jo Salvo.
Memorials may be sent to the Montana Democratic Party, the Helena Education Foundation or the Art Rambo World Peace Scholarship Fund at Carroll College.
There will be a Vigil on Tuesday, May 1st at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church, 1502 Shirley Rd at 7:00 pm. A Funeral Mass will be held at 11:00am, Wednesday, May 2 at Our Lady of the Valley. Please visit below to leave a comment with condolences or share a memory of Helen.