Marjorie   Helgerson
Marjorie Helgerson

October 27, 1919 - December 24, 2019
Born in Red Oak, Iowa
Resided in Des Moines, Iowa


Marjorie Louise Helgerson was born Oct. 27, 1919, to Oscar and Phoebe Wenstrand, in Red Oak, Iowa. She passed away on December 24, 2019 at Wesley Acres in Des Moines.

Marjorie, her two older brothers, and younger sister spent most of their happy childhoods in Omaha, Nebraska, and Red Oak, Iowa. The family also lived temporarily in Texas and Idaho, due to her father’s legal profession. Graduating from Red Oak High School in 1937, she attended Red Oak Junior College, followed by teaching country school. She then completed her academics at Iowa State Teachers College, Cedar Falls, in 1942. During school breaks in summertime, she enjoyed working adventures in Lake Okoboji, Iowa, and San Diego, California.

Marjorie considered teaching in Central America; however, she continued teaching in Iowa, especially enjoying her country school near Redfield, Iowa.

On July 1, 1945, she married Austin T Helgerson, in Red Oak. Austin’s career took them to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where they both were employed through Tennessee Eastman. From there, they returned to Iowa, living in Ottumwa and Red Oak, before settling in Des Moines, in 1959.

A creative individual with an eye for detail, Marjorie took on the role of a stay-at-home mom, holding the fort while her husband traveled for work during the week. As the children grew up, she returned to substitute teaching and next began a new career at the P.E.O. International office where she worked many years as assistant treasurer, until retirement.

Marjorie and Austin enjoyed traveling together in North America and to Europe, aboard the QE2 and the Concorde. Marjorie’s favorite pastimes included stargazing, reading poetry, playing the piano, and tending to her large yard. A widow since 2003, Marjorie left her long-time home in 2016, moving to Wesley Acres. She approached this new chapter with her usual Swedish stoicism.

Marjorie was a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Des Moines and the P.E.O. Sisterhood, Chapter Q, Des Moines.

Marjorie is survived by her children, son, Ole Helgerson (the late Katherine Hlavka) of Carson, Washington, and two daughters, Sarah Helgerson (Douglas Vandahl) of Kanata, Ontario, Canada, and Martha Helgerson (Donald Houston) of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; four grandchildren, Robert Vandahl (Gen Boisjoly), William Vandahl, Anna Houston, and Mary Houston; several nieces and nephews, and great-nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Austin; two brothers (Kenneth Wenstrand and Curtis Wenstrand), and a sister (Phyllis Doolittle).

Memorial services will be held at 1:00 p.m., Saturday, January 4, 2020 at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 600 - 6th Avenue, Des Moines. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship or to the Montgomery County History Center in Red Oak, Iowa. For additional information and online condolences please visit

Arrangements by Iles Dunn's Chapel



St. John's Lutheran Church
600 Sixth Avenue
Des Moines, IA US 50309
Saturday, January 4, 2020
1:00 PM


P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship
P.E.O. International Headquarters · 3700 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa United States 50312
Montgomery County History Center
2700 N 4th Street
Red Oak, Iowa United States 51566