Helen Louise Nobles Gurtner died in her Hamilton home 1/1/2022 at age 87 under the care of Bitterroot Hospice and with the loving help from several angels disguised as caregivers.
Helen was the second child of James T and Hazel E. Nobles of Anacortes, Washington. She attended Whitney Elementary, Columbia Junior High and graduated Salutatorian at Anacortes High School in 1954. Helen attended Western WA College of Education, now Western Washington University in Bellingham, graduating in 1956. She, like many women in the Nobles’ family, chose teaching as her life long profession. She helped to mold generations of students and was recognized by the National P.T.A. with the Acorn Award. After 37 years teaching she retired in 1993. She maintained contact with several special students throughout her life; a testament to a profound and gifted teacher who was devoted to her students and profession.
Helen followed another Nobles’ tradition, a church piano and organ player. Helen’s church was St. Peter’s United Methodist in Bellevue, WA. It was through participation in her church choir that in 1997 she met John Raymond Gurtner, Jr. That first spark led to marriage the following Valentine’s Day. Those vows began a loving and adventure-filled life together for more than 20 years.
Helen introduced John to the Bitterroot Valley in 1998. They moved not long after, making the Bitterroot their final home and home base. From it they toured the world, visiting friends and family, white water rafting, sky diving, hot air ballooning, dog sledding and treasure hunting. These two soulmates did not let grass grow under their feet. Helen would liven up any room she entered with that contagious smile and that “Hoo Hoo” holler! She became a great photographer and entered many favorite animal shots from various trips into the local Ravalli County fair. When “Poetry” debuted at the fair, Helen was ready! A prolific writer of poems, Helen entertained and shared with all. They both adopted the Corvallis United Methodist Church where Helen played piano each Sunday until Parkinson’s disease robbed her of playing.
Helen and John shared a love of live performance. They were regulars in the audiences of Shakespeare In the Park, Hamilton Players, Stevensville Playhouse and Bitterroot Performing Arts Council performances. They traveled throughout Montana seeking out playhouses and delighted in new venues. They would don appropriate attire to honor whatever theme was to be presented. No matter the event, they were always “all in” and lived and loved life.
Helen was active in several community groups. She was a life member of Corvallis American Legion Auxiliary, the Bitterroot PEO and generous supporter of her beloved Corvallis United Methodist Church.
Helen pioneered a local Parkinson’s Group in the early 2000s to meet with, learn from and support others with Parkinson’s in the Bitterroot Valley. She lamented about the lack of research for this devastating and fatal disease. Therefore Helen’s estate will provide for an annual fellowship in her name at Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton to support postdoctoral research to study neurological disease. It will be named Helen Louise Gurtner Fellowship with the hope that soon this horrific disease can be controlled or eliminated.
Helen leaves behind cousins Diane Lind and Garner Ekstran of Washington and Harriet McClelland of North Dakota as well as many Nobles,’ McClelland and Ekstran cousins once and twice removed. She also leaves behind John’s son-in-law along with many Australian and American grand and great grandchildren.
A celebration of life for Miss Helen will be postponed until late spring. She will be interred at Corvallis Cemetery following a gathering at Corvallis United Methodist Church. Arrangements are under the exceptional care of Daly Leach in Hamilton. The family wishes to thank all of Helen’s friends for their visits and uplifting love. Helen could not have lived and died as she wanted without the loving and professional care provided by Aleta, Andrea, Debra, Faith, Hannah, Maddy and Sunny. Thank you also for help from SS Staffing and Details Home Care in Corvallis.