Obituary: Helen Sutterfield, 91, Suttons Bay, formerly of Mason County.
Helen Broder Sutterfield lived a life filled with laughter and love of family and friends.
At the time of her passing, Thursday, Feb 8, 2018, she was in the comforting, loving hands of family, the remarkable caregivers at Effie’s Place and Hartland Hospice.
Helen was born on June 17, 1926. She grew up as an only child on a fruit farm in Summit Township where she gained her independent spirit. Determined to break the mold, she challenged the rules and became the first woman to don trousers in school, graduated at age 16 as Valedictorian, and earned a scholarship to Western Michigan University.
Prior to furthering her education, Helen developed a crush on a tall, handsome man, 10 years her senior, Selwyn Sutterfield. He made frequent visits from downstate to visit his sister and her husband who lived on a nearby farm. Their families socialized and attended the same church. Nearing her high school graduation, her mother suggested she find her best dress for a gathering of friends, with knowledge Selwyn would attend. Helen soon left the countryside, headed to Western Michigan University and Selwyn enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Prior to “Sel” shipping off on the S.S. Philadelphia on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea, he made a number of trips to Kalamazoo to woo Helen. They began a correspondence, and with the help of the U.S. Postal Service, her love of writing, and some Channel No. 5 scented paper, it blossomed into a romance.
Selwyn proposed to her on the top deck of the Boblo Boat. With beautifully scented orange blossoms cut from the family garden in her hair and bouquet, they were married in Ludington on June 29, 1946 and thus began a happy marriage of 44 years, raising three children in Dearborn, followed by four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
After Selwyn passed in 1991, Helen spent her time between Dearborn and their small family cottage enjoying the northern woods of Mason County’s Grant Township. Cottage time was filled with memories of her husband, children and grandchildren surrounded by nature and the simple things in life. Helen moved north to Suttons Bay permanently in 2000, on encouragement from her daughter to be closer to her roots in northern Michigan.
“Miss Helen” loved her community and was known in Suttons Bay for her daily walks through the village, her love of children and her cheerful conversation with everyone she met. She loved her family and valued her friendships. She loved Chinese checkers, ice cream, sipping tea with friends, digging up wildflowers when no one was looking, pruning, raking, caring for and organizing every inch of her home, inside and out. She had fun doing things most adults don’t find the time to do, and took immense pleasure in any project, friends, family and nature. She took her children sledding, taught her granddaughters to name all the wildflowers in the meadow, and her grandsons how to find Petoskey stones on the shore of Lake Michigan. She always knew how to entertain herself and never understood the words, “I’m bored”.
She was loyal, devoted and unafraid to voice an opinion. She was known for her strongly worded letters to senators and local government on many an injustice and her wall of artwork from children she met and loved. She adored their visits for a board game, a cookie, an interesting story and enjoyed attending their school events.
During her lifetime, she let those she loved, both near and far, know how much she valued them through her beautiful letters. She never missed an opportunity to let her loved ones know just how much they meant to her. She was a precious soul with an elegant touch. Her smile and laughter was constant and comforting until the very end. She will be missed so dearly.
Helen was preceded in death by her parents Lloyd and Vernice Broder and husband Selwyn Sutterfield. She is survived by her children, Alan Sutterfield (Jane), Jeanne Spiceland (Dave), and Sharon Sutterfield,; grandchildren Aleta Dyling (Al), Sarah Wojtas, Scott Sutterfield, and Benjamin Wojtas (Lei); great-grandchildren Nolan, Annabelle, and Clementine.
A celebration of Helen’s life is planned on March 10. Please join us at 11 a.m. as we walk “Helen’s daily path” from her house, through the village, ending at the V.I. Grill for soup and sandwiches. In lieu of flowers, a memorial may be made to the Village of Suttons Bay – Water Wheel Park Enhancement Project.
Please share a memory with Helen’s family by visiting her tribute page found at www.reynolds-jonkhoff.com. The Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home and Cremation Services is serving the family.