Helen Saemerow 1929 — 2020

Helen Saemerow

With love and appreciation, our family would like to announce the peaceful passing of our beloved Helen Saemerow, on August 18, 2020.

She was a wonderful daughter, wife, sister, auntie, godmother, friend, benefactor, boss and first of all a loving child of God. She lived her faith each day and to the fullest.

Now she is dancing into Heaven, smiling and hugging all those loved ones who have gone on before: Mother-Josie, Father-Kon, husband-Jim, brother-Henry, best-friend- Helen Reddeman, business partner- Ray Bertoli, in-laws- Fred & Lena Saemerow, and many other Saemerow family members.

She was born Helen Maryanna Stankiewicz, 1929, in Sokolowice, Poland. At the age of 3, she and her mother, Josefa, came to Canada to join her dad, Konstanty, in Maidstone, Saskatchewan. Kon had left Poland just before Helen was born. This was the first time they would meet. Brother Henry was born there in 1933. Grade One for Helen was mainly learning English. She loved school and her teachers.  The family moved to Celista, BC and by age 9, she became big sister to Anne. Her first job was bookkeeping at Brown & Smith General Store & Post Office, 1944.

 She completed Grade Ten by correspondence, with Mrs. Elsie Roberts’ help and in 1944 (age 15), she moved to Kamloops to attend St. Ann’s Academy. She completed the one year Commercial Business Course and it was there that she met her longtime friend, Jean Bertoli.  In 1945, she was hired by Inland Building Supplies, owned by Harry Turner and sons. After 4 months, she accepted the position of Office Manager there.

Then, 24 years later, when the Turner’s retired, she and co-worker, Ray Bertoli formed their own company specializing in materials for the masonry and drywall trades: Inland Building Supplies (1969)Ltd.  Success was achieved by good partnership, hard work, personal service and a devoted staff. 

Two staff members that started with them in the beginning are Roy Powell and Brenda McLean.  Their first employee was Roy as Yardman. A few years later, Brenda McLean was hired for the office. These two loyal employees stayed until the business was sold. They became like family.

Helen and Ray continued their business for another 38 years until selling in 2007. Helen had worked for 64 years!  She became busier than ever doing things that she loved; attending family, church and community events, fall fairs, cowboy festivals, concerts, music in the park, travelling to Mexico, Hawaii, Italy, Germany, Holy Land and all over Canada and the U.S.A. As much as Helen loved to travel, she was always most happy to return to her dearly loved Kamloops and beautiful valley that she proudly called “Home”.

After church, and family, community was everything to Helen. Immigrant parents, Kon and Josie Stankiewicz, showed by example how to gather people together to celebrate life, starting in Saskatchewan and then to Celista, where they helped build the North Shuswap Community Hall. 

In 1949, the fundraising began for a Brocklehurst Hall. Again there was Helen amongst hundreds of new friends and neighbours, selling fruits and vegetables at roadside stands, freezing while making coffee outside the dance at a non-insulated building near the airport. Those memories, of dancing the nights away in the new hall on Tranquille Road, always brought a big smile for Helen.

Helen was on the planning committee for the OLPH Church Center & Gymnasium, which opened in 1990.  She continued to volunteer at the Church Center up until the last few years, where she could be found making lunches with the CWL, selling 50/50 tickets and setting up for the November “Free” Dinner, welcoming and serving the families.

Helen’s kindness and generosity was far reaching, benefiting many families, businesses, organizations and our community as a whole. She is responsible for donations of funds, materials, loving direction and encouragement to many people.

She was a contributor to: Royal Inland Hospital, TRU University, local schools and sports teams, North Shuswap Community Association and missions.

Helen was a member of many organizations, often in the role of Secretary or Treasurer; Catholic Church Founding Member-OLPH Parish, Catholic Women’s League, Kamloops Multicultural Society, Founding Member -North Shore Business Improvement Association, Society of St. Vincent De Paul, North Shuswap Historical Society, North Shuswap Community Association

In 2014, she received the “Distinguished Service Award” from the City of Kamloops for “Lifetime of Time & Resources Building Community”. 

Helen is loved by many. She is a “big sister & little mother” to Anne. She is “Auntie Helen” to a big bunch of thankful nieces and nephews, “Heli” to close friends, “Shortie” to the Saemerow family and “Partner”, “close friend” and “Godmother” to the Bertoli family and “Really Great Friend” to 1000’s of people. 

Our thanks go to God, Virgin Mary, OLPH Parish, Fr. Peter Nguyen, Fr. Vijay Martin, Fr. Fred Wiesbeck, NP Navy Sahota, Dr. Howie, the exceptional staff at both Chartwell Residence and Gemstone Brocklehurst.

There are so many others who we would like to mention and thank. Please know that we are most appreciative and are thinking about you all.

It would be Helen’s wish, and ours, that if you could not be present at her service, that you gather together safely. Tell stories and share memories as you celebrate Helen’s life in your own way.

“Love one another, as I have loved you” … and so Helen did.

She is survived by her loving family Sister: Anne Krehel, Sister-in-law: Barbara Stankiewicz, Sister-in-law: Sophie Saemerow, Nieces & Nephews: Jeanette Krehel, Mark Krehel (Julie), Teresa Krehel, Stewart Stankiewicz (Val), David Stankiewicz (Laura), Linda Brooks (Ron), Terry Turcotte (Darryl), Dolly Platzer (Ben), Tina Ramuno (Victor), Jodi Saemerow (Cliff) and their families. Plus numerous other nieces and nephews. Cousins: Camille (Frank) Lillig, Virginia Dziedzic and their families all from Chicago, as well as distant relatives in Poland.

Prayers will be recited at 7:00 pm on Friday, August 28, 2020 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, 635 Tranquille Road. The Mass of Christian burial will be held in the Church at 10:00 am on Saturday, August 29, 2020.

Due to health regulations, there is a limited capacity of 50 people at both the Friday night Prayers and Saturday morning Service/Mass.  All family and guests must call to be screened and registered for their attendance with Kamloops Funeral Home 250 554 2577.

Memorial donations in Helen’s memory may be made to the Marjorie Willoughby Snowden Memorial Hospice or to the charity of your choice.

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4 Tributes

  1. Doug Woldum
    Posted August 25, 2020 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    To the Stankiewicz, Krehel and Saemerow families. So sorry to hear of Auntie Helen’s passing she was one special lady. I had the privilege of knowing her since i was 5 years old and she was a special friend of our family for 55 year. She will always be remembered.

  2. Teresa Watt
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 4:16 am | Permalink

    I was blessed to have Helen as my god mother. Her unconditional love and support will never be forgotten. Helen was proof that angels walk amongst us. Teresa, Doug, Kathryn and Brooklyn

  3. Jackie Mcgregor
    Posted August 27, 2020 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I will miss her hugs so much.

  4. Harold Lavack
    Posted December 7, 2020 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I did not know Helen personally, just her warm smile every time you saw her at Inland Building Supply or on the street.
    I loved her smile, you could see her heart and soul in that smile.
    That smile made your day, like everything was going to all right, that warm blanket tossed over you on a cold night.
    Helen made everyone’s life richer, a quality lady with a big heart, and the warmest smile ….that warm smile

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