The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


June 26, 2012

Helen B. Tussy

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — Helen B. Tussy (Kerekgyarto), age 98, of Ashtabula Township, died Saturday morning, June 23, 2012, at home with her daughter holding her hand.

Helen was born in Woodbridge, N.J., on Oct. 12, 1913, to Stephen and Mary (Lasko) Kerekgyarto. Helen lived in Passaic, N.J. eight years before moving to Ashtabula, where her father, Stephen Kerekgyarto, found work with the railroad and brought his family to Ohio from New Jersey.

From age 8 to 18, Helen grew up in and around the Morrison, Bell and West St. area of Ashtabula near the railroad switching station. For Helen, it was an ideal place to live. During those early years, her mother, Mary, would pack delicious lunches for Helen to carry to her father a few blocks down the street at the railroad switching station to enjoy eating with her father. She treasured her experiences and memories from this time. Even as a child, no grass ever grew under Helen's feet. When she was 8, Helen taught her parents English. She accompanied her father and translated for him at his naturalization swearing in ceremony in 1921.

Besides playing with the neighborhood kids, she was always finding little jobs to do. At age 10, she washed and set a neighborhood grandmother’s hair for which she earned a quarter a week; subsequently, in 2012, she was able to share that particular memory with that particular grandmother's granddaughter. At age 11, she wanted to have a bike and a camera, so she found an ad to sell salve door-to-door and she earned enough money to buy her new bike and camera.

Another job Helen found was cooking and cleaning house for a neighbor lady who was ill with cancer. Since both her parents worked, Helen was responsible for bringing her three sisters home for lunch, which she prepared and then cleaned up, before taking them back to school for the rest of the day. To entice potential customers, area stores offered trial use of radios before purchase, and Helen kept bringing them home until her father relented and finally purchased one.

Helen's love for books drew her to the Ashtabula Library, where she volunteered throughout Junior High and High School. Helen was a bright and eager student and appreciated the beauty of her school, its fine architecture and workmanship. Even more so, was Helen's love and respect for her excellent teachers, some of whom became life-long friends. Helen loved to play tennis, baseball and even though short, her performance as a basketball forward was outstanding; she also enjoyed archery, roller and ice skating.

Helen's teen years were spent dancing to the Big Band Orchestras that came to Lake Shore Park, Geneva-on-the-Lake and other area venues. She reminisced about the enchanting hotel and boardwalk east of Lake Shore Park. Helen met her future husband, Andrew F. Tussy, at a Lake Shore Park big band dance. Helen and Andy were married on March 17, 1932, at St. Joseph Church and lived with her parents for awhile. Shortly thereafter, the newly-weds moved to Cleveland where Andy found work at Eaton Axle and Helen took care of her new daughter, Marilyn, in their new apartment.

They met some of their life-long friends, Stella and Modest Angelo, Anna and Joe Wagner and Mary and Joe Gyure while in the Cleveland area. They moved back to Ashtabula after Andy was told by a doctor he could no longer work indoors due to the dust conditions aggravating his health and Andy eventually found work outdoors at the Ashtabula docks. They shared 54 years together and joyfully danced through most of them; oh, how they danced!

Helen and Andy helped form the Mr. & Mrs. Club at St. Joseph's, which held formal dances throughout the year. Helen was a very active member of many ladies church groups at St. Joseph's, such as the Catholic Ladies of Columbia (CLC), Catholic Daughters, the Altar and Rosary Society and others. Helen provided CLC services such as washing and cleaning the pews, visiting the sick (homebound and hospitalized), and bringing necessities and gifts to them, especially at Christmas which were much appreciated and eagerly awaited during the War years. She also belonged to Catholic Daughters, a social group that enjoyed card playing and had a vibrant book club.

She also enjoyed her garden club. Helen helped at St. Joseph's church bazaars and in their kitchen all through the years at breakfasts, First Communions and other church events. She helped organize a St. Joseph's girls teen club along with Mrs. Dorothy Vettle and Mrs. Mary Beth Zabak, so mothers and daughters could share activities such as field trips and picnics. Helen coached girls basketball for St. Joseph Grade School.

During the war years, Helen excelled as a Red Cross nurse, impressing her supervisor with her knowledge, dedication and caring skills. In addition, she worked in a bayonet factory and served as a volunteer civil defense block warden. When the air raid sirens sounded for the "blackouts", Helen would don her steel hard-hat, grab her special flashlight and patrol her Lake Ave. neighborhood with another volunteer looking for any signs of light escaping the blackout curtains in nearby homes and alerting anyone with escaping light problems. Helen continued to the present day the tradition, which began during the war years, of eating meatless meals on Tuesday

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