Helen Marie Lenz grew up at the foot of Walnut Street in Dayton, Ky., with the Ohio River lapping in its basin nearby.
She often gazed through the open window of her childhood home while washing dishes, reveling in its view. When she heard the music of calliopes in the distance, she got excited, knowing the Island Queen steam boat would soon pass by. She saw the passengers clearly on its deck and would wave to them as they headed to Coney Island for a day of merriment.
"She had many stories and a very interesting life living along the river," said her daughter, Cathy Volter of Dayton.
She remained anchored in her love for the river and the city of Dayton until Saturday, when she died from complications of COPD. She was 82.
Helen was six years old when the river flooded in 1937. Still, year after year, whenever the river rose and fell, flooded and abated, Helen's parents, Harry and Alice Hoepker, returned with their six children in tow. They hosed out the lower floors and cleaned their home so they could return.
Following graduation from Dayton High School, Helen took a position in the accounting department with the Gibson Company in Cincinnati.
She met fellow Dayton resident Stanley C. Lenz during a social gathering.
During the Korean War, the two remained in touch by writing letters. When he returned, the couple married in 1952, settling in Dayton
Mrs. Lenz left the Gibson Co. to start their family, which grew to include five boys and three girls.
She volunteered as a Boy Scout Den leader and coordinated Girl Scout cookie sales with stacks of boxes filling their living room from floor to ceiling. Of course, with eight children, a box of cookies could disappear. She always covered the cost.
In 1974, Mr. Lenz died unexpectedly.
Mrs. Lenz took over for the family by taking a job with the Dayton Schools. In 1979, she became the assistant city clerk of Dayton under Gerry Heeg. When Heeg retired in 1990, Mrs. Lenz became the city clerk.
"She was a wonderful person to work for. You couldn't ask for any better," said Donna Leger, the current Dayton city clerk. "She was so kind. I never saw her get mad. She was patient and took time with you."
Mrs. Lenz's kindness and compassion touched many residents in Dayton. She knew everyone. Sometimes she helped pay property tax bills for older residents who were unable so they didn't have to worry. She never asked for anything in return. A few would pay her back when they could, but it didn't seem to matter to her.
"She received a key to the city when she retired in 1995. Aside from that, the best rewards she got, well, they were in her heart," her daughter said.
She was a life-long member of St. John the Evangelist Anglican Catholic Church in Dayton, enjoyed sewing and cooking for her family.
Along with her daughter, other survivors include her daughters Lori Seyberth of Fort Thomas and Margie Brickler of Dayton; sons, Stan, Mike, and Matt Lenz, all of Dayton; Tim Lenz of Independence, and Joe Lenz of Bellevue; sister, Elsie Fowler of Butler; brother, Jerry Hoepker of Cincinnati; 17 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be 9-11 a.m., with Mass of Christian Burial following, Thursday at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Catholic Church. Burial will be at Evergreen Cemetery, Southgate. Grunn Funeral Home, Cincinnati, is handling arrangements.
Memorials: Helen Lenz Memorial Fund, St. John the Evangelist Anglican Catholic Church, 619 O'Fallon Avenue, Dayton, KY 41074; or
, Attn: Helen Lenz Memorial, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.
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Published in the Kentucky Enquirer from July 16 to July 17, 2013
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