Helen Marie (Lessar) Brown went to be with her Lord and the love of her life, Curtis Brown, on February 14, 2021, Valentine’s Day, just as one of her grandsons predicted.
Helen was born on April 4, 1928 to Frank and Pauline (Ambro) Lessar in East Helena, Montana, joining an older brother, Frank. Her father remarried after the untimely death of her mother, and Helen gained two more siblings, Agnes and John Lessar. By the age of 8 years, Helen had lost both of her parents, and was raised by other relatives throughout her childhood. Her special guardian angel was her Uncle John Lessar, who was always there for her, and of whom she always spoke very fondly.
Helen became very independent early in her life and was always willing to work hard at anything she did. With the support of her Uncle John, Helen was enrolled in a business school and lived at the Sienna Club, a home run by nuns. She became very adept at typing and shorthand – a skill she used daily throughout her life. Her secretarial and organizational skills netted her positions with the Montana State Legislature, the IRS, Smedal & Maurer Law firm in Ames, Iowa, the Economics Dept. at Iowa State University, and eventually typing thesis papers for ISU grad students.
Sometime in 1946 she met Curtis Brown, who became the love of her life. They were married on May 1, 1947. Early in their marriage they travelled with Curt’s parents and their racing horses as they moved around the horse-racing circuit. Helen loved animals and not only cared for the horses, but brought home to their trailer a litter of kittens one night, keeping the sickest of them, Stinky, to raise. Many more pets were to follow: Sam, Rusty, Dickens, and finally, Paco, all loved and spoiled. Helen and Curt joyfully celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in May 1997 with family and many friends. Curtis passed away in August 1997, leaving Helen and family missing him greatly.
In 1959, the family moved to College Park, Maryland for a year, where Curtis received special training for his new position as a microbiologist for the National Animal Disease Lab in Ames, Iowa. The Browns spent every weekend in the Washington, D.C. area, making sure their girls learned America’s history.
Moving to Ames, Iowa in 1960, Helen worked for the Smedal & Maurer Law firm as head secretary; then as secretary for Karl Fox, head of the Economics department at Iowa State University. After retiring, but not ready to completely stop working, Helen typed thesis for grad students from ISU.
In 1972, Helen and Curt moved back to Helena, where they became owners of Gertie’s Drive-In, a long- established restaurant in the community. Still applying her organizational skills, Helen became the accountant, order buyer, remodel planner, and just overall “boss” of Gertie’s until its’ closing in ____.
During her life, Helen was full of energy, very creative, and always ready to hear a joke or play one on some unsuspecting person. Many will bear witness to wonderful costumes worn by Helen as she made appearances unannounced to:
The Montana Legislature (in session) as a constituent from up north
The IRS as “Charlie’s Aunt Helen”
The Economics Dept. at Iowa State University as a potential employee
(Note: With the aid of a friendly legislator, Helen made a narrow escape from the Sargent-at-Arms during that session!!)
Many customers and employees at Gertie’s will attest to her seasonal “hair dyes”—red & green at Christmas, black & orange at Halloween, pink, purple, & yellow at Easter, etc., etc. She loved celebrating the holidays in whatever way she could. Helen loved to entertain. She loved every part…from the decorating, to the cooking, to the gathering of people. Our mother always attempted to include everyone in the fun; she didn’t like to see someone alone. Christmas was her favorite holiday, and often resulted in 5 different Christmas trees all beautifully decorated. Our home was so festive during the holiday season.
Her grandkids have many memories about Grandma, but one of the favorites was when Helen turned into the “Cookie Monster”. They would go hide from her and she would search them out, making this scary voice the whole time she was searching. They begged her to do it again and again.
Helen was very proud of her Slovenian descent, and “spoke the language” whenever and with whoever she could. But—her big love was polka music and polka festivals, many of which she attended regularly, mostly in Rock Springs, Wyoming. She always took her “ugly lady” mask with her and donned it sometime during the festival, either scaring someone or making someone laugh. The “ugly lady” mask was always in Helen’s purse, and used just about anywhere she went.
We greatly miss our mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She was one of a kind in our minds, and we’re certain she’s using that love of life she had to keep everyone in heaven on their toes!
Helen was preceded in death by her parents; her favorite Uncle John; her husband, Curtis; her brother, Frank; sister, Agnes and brother-in-law, Claude Weaver; sister-in-law, Ann Lessar; and cousin, Mary Pyfer and husband, Clark Pyfer.
Helen is survived by her three daughters, Leanne (Bill) Pellett; Connie (Mike) McCarty; and Sherry Susen; six grandchildren, Bret (Shelly) Pellett, Kyle (Brandy) Pellett & Jay (Trish) Pellett, Jon McCarty & Angela Neff, and Kelly Susen and special friend, Steve Kemler; nine great-grandchildren and one great, great-grandchild; and her brother John Lessar.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at noon, Friday, June 25, at Saints Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church in East Helena.
Memorials may be directed to: Saints Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church in East Helena, Mt.
Wild About Cats Rescue & Sanctuary in Clancy, Mt.
Lewis & Clark County Humane Society in Helena, Mt.