Helen Rhoades, age 80, of Grants Pass died December 24, 2023 at her home.
As Helen’s granddaughter, it is an absolute honor to share her eulogy. Grandma has been helping us along, she left little notes about her life and just before she left us she finished a book with so many details. It’s been a blessing and a sweet reminder of what a genuine and wonderful person she was. So thank you grandma for helping me write this for you, I’m so happy that I can share some of your words with our loved ones today.
Francis Helen Potts was born on February 17th in 1943 in Ogden, Utah. It was a sunny day and the high was a chilly 37 degrees. She was named after her dad’s brother Francis and her mom’s sister Helen. All her life she has gone by Helen, and from what I remember, she was never too fond of her first name Francis. She was the oldest of four children. As a child she enjoyed sledding with her younger sister Mary Ellen, and roller skating (the kind with a skate key). In her own words “there was no such thing as helmets back then, it’s a wonder we didn’t kill ourselves.”
In 1951 her family moved from Utah to Oakland, California. And though she wrote that it was hard to move as a child and leave her beloved cousins, she settled in and attended school in San Leandro. In April of 1960 she met her husband, Jim, James Dwight Rhoades. She met him at a friend’s birthday party, she recalled that he was wearing a cast on his right leg from a recent toboggan accident. That friend, Ray, continuously set Jim and Helen up and they dated for a few years. For her 21st birthday, Helen went with her father Cy Potts to Elmer’s restaurant in San Leandro. Jim and Helen were engaged at that time and in her words “Jim Rhoades took me out to dinner at Chuck Wagon Buffet, it was delightful. My future husband was very good to me”. Helen and Jim married on March 28th, 1964 in the Castro Valley Ward. And were sealed in the temple on the 30th in Salt Lake. Grandma reflected many times that she is thankful to be bound to Jim for all eternity and found comfort in their commitment to one another. After their wedding they ventured down to Las Vegas and Hersh Castle for their honeymoon. Their first vehicle a Chevy Impala was painted with “Just Married” a phrase that didn’t wash away for several years. Grandma reflected “I was a little testy when the car still said ‘Just Married’ when I had our first baby in 1965.”
In 1964 Jim and Helen bought their first home in San Leandro California, they paid $14,250. Working as a bank teller while Jim worked for Coca Cola, they built a beautiful life and proceeded to have their two children, Marci Joy on October 15th 1965, and Ginger Michelle on December 2nd, 1968. While building this beautiful life Helen managed to survive 4 armed bank robberies, twice by the same guy! Helen was a devoted mother and spouse. She reflected “One of Ginger’s teachers asked me what was my secret for raising such good children. I told her I think I was just lucky.” After reading grandma’s thoughts, I think she often didn’t give herself enough credit for the love and guidance she gave to her daughters and I.
Helen’s favorite trip was to the Hawaiian islands in 1989 for her and Jim’s 25th wedding anniversary. She was fascinated by the weather and the volcanos. But I believe what made it the best trip, was the fact that she went with Jim.
In 1998 they built their home in Grants Pass, which was finished in 1999. Up the street from Marci and Jeff’s home. Some of my favorite memories as a kid are getting off the school bus and walking right up the street to see grandma. Jim and Helen were both retired at that time and got to enjoy 25 years of retirement together. I think we can all recognize how special that is. My grandmother reminded me often how lucky she was to have grandpa and his love. She didn’t know what she would do without him. Jim and Helen enjoyed watching NASCAR together and were rarely apart. They found a love of watching NASCAR after going to their nephew, Danny’s, sprint car races.
In the early 2000’s Helen spent significant time with her Father, caring for him in his later years. They had a very tight bond before her passed in 2013. She enjoyed that time with him, and I know it has brought her comfort.
Through the years Helen and Jim made several trips to Alaska, once for their 30th anniversary. A trip that grandma talked about often was their trip to the Netherlands for their 50th wedding anniversary. She was always fascinated by windmills and wanted to visit the country her mother was from. Helen and Jim would have been married 60 years next March, she was so excited to celebrate such a big milestone with the love of her life and her family.
Helen was very devout throughout her life. She believed fully in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. Helen believed that the book of Mormon is the word of God. She is quoted saying “I believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition on Paul – we believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report we seek after these things” Being a part of the Mormon faith gave her great peace of mind, she says “I know who I am and why I am on this earth. I am on this earth to prove myself that I am worthy enough to return to live with Our Father-in-Heaven and Jesus Christ.” I personally think she very much succeeded. She loved Christmas, and got to celebrate it in Heaven.
Grandma was called to pursue genealogy, it became a true hobby to her. In her church blessing it says “The other particular task the Lord has for thee is to seek out genealogy and to see that it is recorded in all its fullness.” She has worked diligently, and has records dating back to the 16th century. Not only for herself, but for her husband, Jim. Going through her records this past week has been so fun, the photos and details she had are amazing!
When asked who her biggest inspiration is, Helen wrote her daughter Marci for how she always considers what others need/want, and her daughter Ginger for her boundless empathy.
I’ve asked the family some of their memories with grandma. My mom, Marci, remembered always building gingerbread houses with her during Christmas. My aunt, Ginger, recalls that her favorite birthday was her 16th, Jim and Helen built 16 gingerbread houses and had 16 of Ginger’s friends over for a slumber party. All of them brought a bag of candy to decorate them and the house smelled of gingerbread. Decorating gingerbread houses was a tradition that she passed along to me when I was little. Marci also remembers scrap booking with her, particularly when I was little. They made numerous scrap books, mostly of me.
Helen was an excellent seamstress and made every Halloween costume for her daughters and later me. She sewed advent calendars and stockings for all of us.
As a child grandma and I spent a lot of time baking. She created a passion in me that has never gone away. She was patient with me, never spoke harshly, even when I turned the beaters on high and got flour all over the kitchen. Grandma loved sweets and would never turn down a slice of cheesecake or lemon merengue pie. As an adult it brought me joy when I could bake for her. And her brownies were a hit at my recent wedding reception.
Grandma was 80 when she passed, and though we had planned on spending many more years with her, it was her time to go to Heaven. I know she has looked down on us this past week and shared in our laughter and our tears. So to end this talk, I’d like to leave you with some advice from Helen herself.
These are Helen’s tips on “Creating a day worth living”
Grandma also advised that “when you’re at work, give your employer your “all.” When you’re at home, give your husband and children your “all.” Learning to love what you have to do is the secret of happiness.”
Helen is survived by her husband, James Dwight Rhoades, her two children, Marci Joy and Ginger Michelle. Her son-in-law Jeffrey Paul Johnson, her granddaughter, Jessica Lynn Johnson and her grandson-in-law Joshua Gray Mitchell.
If we could all learn something from grandma, let it be: be kind, be good, and enjoy the sweet things in life.
Please share a memory of Helen in her Guestbook.
Friday, December 29, 2023
Starts at 10:30 am (Pacific time)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Please join the family at 9:30 a.m. in the Relief Society Room for a visitation and viewing. Interment will be at 2:00 p.m. at Eagle Point National Cemetery.