Helen Elizabeth Fortenbach

  • Born: June 25, 1920
  • Died: April 24, 2020
  • Location: San Mateo, California

Crosby-N. Gray & Co. - FD-96

2 Park Road
Burlingame, CA 94010

Tel. (650) 342-6617

Tribute & Message From The Family

On Friday, April 24, 2020, Helen Elizabeth Fortenbach, loving sister, aunt, and mother, passed away peacefully at the age of 99.

She was born on June 25, 1920, in Canton, Illinois, to Clifford and Rachel Utzinger. In 1939 she married her older brother's best friend, Robert (Bob) Fortenbach. During WWII she was a Red Cross nurse's aide and also worked for the USO. When Bob went to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, for training in the Navy, she moved there to be near him. As Bob's training continued, he was transferred to Bremerton, Washington. She moved with him and went to work for the O.P.A. war ration office there. He was then sent overseas, and she returned to Canton to work for International Harvester Co.

After the war, in 1950, Bob's work took them to Memphis, Tennessee. There, Helen worked at Southwestern (now Rhodes) College in the Alumni Office, and then as secretary to the President of the College. She left work in 1957 to raise their son, Charles. She became more involved in church work and the PTA during those years. She was also interested in drawing, painting, and sewing, among other things. She had an inquisitive mind, and always enjoyed reading.

After Bob retired, they spent quite a bit of time travelling around the U.S., visiting family and seeing the country. Bob passed away in 1997, and shortly thereafter Helen decided to move to the west coast to be nearer her son. She moved in to Sterling Court in San Mateo, California, in 1999, and remained there ever since. During her time at Sterling she was very active, particularly in the early years. She participated in art classes and she learned how to knit even as her vision was failing. She also liked to go on group trips around the local community, and she loved to take long walks.

Helen is survived by her son, Charles Fortenbach of San Mateo; her sister-in-law, Marie Fortenbach of Houston, Texas; and eleven nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, by her husband, Bob; by her brother, Charles Utzinger, and his wife Harriet (and first wife Beatrice); by her brother, Robert Utzinger, and his wife Lois; by her brother, Verle Utzinger, and his wife Rosemary; and by her brother-in-law, Ray Fortenbach.

Her family would like to give special thanks to Sarah St. Charles, Executive Director of Sterling Court, and to the staff and care-givers there, who treated her with great kindness, dignity, and respect over many years.

Helen touched many lives with her good humor, her sense of fairness, and her resilience and determination. She will be sorely missed.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to one of her favorite charities, the Second Harvest Food Bank (https://give.shfb.org/donatenow).

A celebration of Helen's life will be held when travel and larger gatherings are considered safe, followed by the interment of her ashes at Elmwood Township Cemetery, near Peoria, Illinois. The family will announce details at a later date.