Helen Sampsel was born on April 27, 1930 to William and Elsie Harris in Ridgway, PA. Helen passed away on March 6, 2021 in Columbia Falls, MT. Helen was the youngest of six children and, at the time of her death, was the last surviving member of her generation of her family.
After completing high school, Helen moved to Philadelphia and attended Jefferson School of Nursing. While in nursing school, Helen went on a blind date with John Sampsel, who was a student at Jefferson Medical School. Helen and John married on August 25, 1952 and were married for 64 years.
After their marriage, John and Helen lived in Philadelphia while John finished medical school. Helen worked as a nurse in one of the first intensive care units in the United States. Their son John was born in 1953. John finished his education and the family moved to Hanover, NH, for John’s residency at Dartmouth. Helen continued to work as a nurse and they had two more children, Jeff in 1955 and Bob in 1958. John continued his medical career and the family moved to Westfield, MA, Hanover NH, Silver City, NM, and Tucson, AZ. Their son Curt was born in 1960 and daughter Meg was born in 1963.
In 1966, the family moved to Miles City, MT. When the family first arrived in Miles City, there were no suitable houses available, so John, Helen, and their five young children lived for some time in two rooms at the Red Rock Motel. Eventually the family moved into their home at 103 South Strevell, where Helen and John lived more than 50 years. When the kids were young, the Sampsel household was rambunctious and included a menagerie, such as, a raccoon (Clyde); a lamb (Ace); a pigeon (Gobbles); a black and tan hound (Dinah); a poodle (Tink), assorted cats, a rooster, chickens, rabbits, lizards, and snakes.
While living in Miles City, Helen and John were active in NAMI and, for many years, Helen volunteered as a court-appointed special advocate for people with mental illness. Helen loved working with Judge Day and staff. During her time as a court appointed special advocate, Helen was named as Volunteer of the Year.
Helen loved talking on the phone with her friends, playing bridge, golfing, a good eastern Montana tomato, local sweet corn with lots of butter, watching and identifying birds from her kitchen window, visiting the ranch and grandkids in Stanford, going to the annual Ram Sale, lighting fireworks, pulling weeds after the rain, watching pro/college football, attending her grandkids’ band concerts and offering unsolicited observations. Grandma Helen’s house was the most fun place to be.
John passed away in 2016. With the help of her son, Curt, and her close friends Bob and Pat Lucas, Wayne and Betty Lou Helland, Barb Lee, Mark and Lisa Helland, Helen was able to stay in the family home until 2018, when she moved to the Montana Veterans Home in Columbia Falls, MT. Because her daughter, Meg, is a nurse at the Veterans Home, Helen enjoyed nearly daily contact with family. During her time at the Veterans Home, Helen enjoyed BBQ’s, picnics, holiday family gatherings, visits from her family and friends, Camas (therapy dog), attending the Columbia Falls High School Wildcat girls basketball games, Sudoku and bingo. Helen’s family thanks her caregivers at the Veterans Home for the attention, good humor, kindness, and excellent care they gave to Helen.
Helen is survived by her four sons John (Betty) of Stanford, MT, Jeff of Helena, MT, Bob (Maggie) of Bigfork, MT and Curt of Kalispell, MT and, her daughter, Meg of Kalispell. Helen is also survived by four grandchildren Joe (Alyssa) Sampsel of Ronan, MT, Marybeth Sampsel (Paul Sullivan) of Bigfork, MT, Jayme (Matt) Willmore of Roy, MT, and Jeff (Dawnita) Sampsel of Stanford, MT; eight great-grandchildren Mason and Connor Sampsel, Effie, Josie, and Dewey Sullivan, Austin, Wesley and Mira Willmore, and Curtis Sampsel; and special friends Mary and Paul Sullivan of Bigfork, MT.
It is hard to sum up 90-years of someone as full of life as Helen in these few paragraphs so, as she would say, “There.”
A family celebration of Helen’s life will be held this summer in Miles City. If desired, memorials may be sent to the Montana Rescue Mission, Billings, MT; the Montana Veterans Home Memorial Fund, Columbia Falls, MT or the charity of one’s choice.
Columbia Mortuary in Columbia Falls is caring for the family.
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