Serving the community since 1922

Helen Marie Pankratz Gaede

March 29, 1940 – Feb. 17, 2024

Helen Marie Pankratz was born March 29,1940, in Hutchinson, Kan., to Helen and Andrew Pankratz. There were two children in the family; her sister, Sara Ann, was a year and a half older. They were poor, but they didn't know it at the time.

During her childhood on the farm, she had many cherished memories. At a young age, Helen asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior, and made that decision public when she was baptized on Sept. 20, 1953, at the age of 13.

She attended South Inman Grade School, a one-room schoolhouse with one teacher instructing all eight grades. Helen was the only one in the first grade. The school was located a mile from home, and she would walk or ride a bike to school, even in winter.

Helen was active in sports and didn't mind being called a "tomboy" since she could run as fast as the boys. After her seventh year the school was closing, and she began attending Buhler Grade School, where she was again active in sports. Helen had many happy experiences during her four years, including being chosen as one of the queen's attendants for basketball homecoming. She graduated in 1958.

Helen attended Tabor College, where she met Dennis Gaede, a Shafter boy, during her sophomore year. They were married on Aug 31, 1961, in Buhler, Kan. She received her BA in home economics in 1963. After graduation, they moved to Manhattan, Kan., where Dennis continued his education at Kansas State University.

During their time in Manhattan, both of their children, Randall and Rhonda, were born. After graduation from Kansas State, they moved to Ottawa, Kan., and transferred their church membership to First Baptist Church. Then in 1968, they moved to Shafter and raised their family and attended the Shafter Mennonite Brethren Church.

In 1972, Helen started working at the Kiddie Kollege Preschool as a teacher's aide. She continued her education and became the program director. She received the Christian Education Service Award in 1977 and kept teaching children until her retirement in 2022.

Helen became a member of the Shafter Mennonite Brethren Church on May 25, 1969, where she taught Sunday School and helped as an Awana leader for many years. She loved playing co-ed volleyball on Monday nights, and more recently played pickleball. In 2017, Helen was honored by the Shafter Chamber of Commerce with its Education Award. In 2022, Helen received a Distinguished Service Award from the Kiwanis Club of Shafter for her many, many hours of community service.

She was a longtime member and served as president of the Shafter Historical Society and she loved helping at The Depot Museum. Helen served as a trustee at SMBC and enjoyed caring for the buildings and flower beds.

Helen frequently was seen walking around Shafter. She was also known as the best painter in town, and even had two requests for painting jobs on her answering machine when she came home from her recent hospital stay.

At home, Helen enjoyed reading, gardening and working puzzles. She was a pro at making Zwieback and mini peppernut cookies. She loved watching many sports, especially her Kansas teams, but she also was seen around town cheering on her former Kiddie Kollege students and their teams.

Helen was ushered into the loving arms of Jesus on Saturday, Feb. 17, in the early hours, while Rhonda and her sister-in-law, Marilyn Bergman, were with her. We will miss her greatly.

Visitation was held at Peters Funeral Home in Shafter on Feb. 22, from 4 to 8 p.m, and interment at Shafter Memorial Park was private. Helen's memorial service will be held at Shafter Mennonite Brethren Church on Friday, March 1, beginning at 11 a.m.

[CORRECTION: A previous version of this story provided the wrong time for the memorial service. It will be at 11 a.m., not 1 p.m.]


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