Life Story / Obituary
Tied to the time
that I’m allotted
besotted with this unwise
urge, I’ll pencil lines
I come to my demise.
Marie (Helmers) Bahlke passed away peacefully on August 24, 2023, at 103, after a decade-long sparring match with old age.
It’s impossible to capture a century-long life in a few paragraphs, to represent how special and deeply loved a person Marie was. Best just to put finger to keyboard, as she would have done.
Born on January 24, 1920, in Duluth, Minn., to parents Frederick and Dorothy (Thwing) Helmers, Marie was the eldest of four siblings and possessed a headstrong and openhearted spirit from the beginning. From growing up spending summer weekends at her uncle’s cottage; to her college years at St. Scholastica; to working at a radio station in Eau Claire, Wisc., where she would meet her future beloved husband of 56 years, Harold; Marie took on life with immeasurable kindness, humor, and love. Her adventurous spirit would lead her on a glider ride over Lake Superior and to a stint in Hollywood during WWII, where she held various radio and writing jobs and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Anthony Quinn and Art Baker.
A lifelong lover of learning, a passionate reader, and prolific writer and poet, Marie became a published author at age 85 with the release of her award-winning book of poetry One Oar: A Journey with Alzheimer’s. She touched untold lives volunteering and mentoring, and participated in various writing groups over the years, befriending people of all ages who couldn’t help but be drawn to her. To know her was to love her, and, maybe more importantly, to be loved by her. She gave her affection freely and laughed easily, always quick with a witticism or lyrical remark.
Over the course of her life, she made her own decisions confidently and vigorously, refusing to be pushed around by any obstacles she faced (even surviving two bouts with COVID-19 in her last years). She was most joyful near the water - trips to Lake Pokegama in her youth, and happy hour on the wraparound porch at the Leelanau Peninsula cottage her husband built. It could be said that her last years were her best, surrounded by the family she loved so much. She found immense delight in simple visits, sharing wine and a piece (or two) of chocolate.
Beloved by countless people, Marie will be especially missed by her children Susan, Sarah, and Stephen; her five grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; extended family; and many, many dear friends. She was preceded in death by her husband, Harold, and grandson, Aaron.
Those of us left behind are strengthened by the memories we hold and the love we will always feel for the staggering force that was Marie.
A celebration of Marie’s life is planned for Saturday, September 23, 2023, from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m.at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Visit Marie’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos and sign her guestbook. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to your charity of choice.