Roberta Alzene Helling (Collins) 1927-2019
Roberta Alzene Collins was born on October 15, 1927 in Jewell County Kansas to Irvine Collins and Lois Newlin Collins. She was the third oldest of six children. Roberta graduated from high school in Corbett, Oregon and moved with her family to Wray, CO where her father worked as a mechanic at the Crause Garage and on the equipment used on building Bonny Dam. In 1950, Roberta started work at the A L Duckwall store on main street where she soon became assistant manager. While working there, a young man from Idalia would frequent the store for a variety of items. Roberta and Edmund Helling were married on June 8, 1952. They soon built a house on the east side of town and made Wray their home. Roberta continued to work in Wray while Edmund commuted to the farm in Idalia. Richard was born in 1957 and Kenneth in 1962.
In September of 1952, Roberta began working in the Yuma County Assessor’s office. Little did she know that she would work there for 42 years. She was appointed Deputy Assessor in 1963 and subsequently ran unopposed and was elected for four consecutive terms as Yuma County Assessor. Roberta thrived in the position and had a reputation as a tough but fair assessor. Rumor had it that she could “smell concrete being poured”. Some of her finer moments included flying over the county with Lucille Bledsoe to identify unreported improvements on properties. During her time as assessor, Roberta served on the state of Colorado Oil and Gas Committee and the District Agriculture Committee. In 1985 Roberta served as president of the Colorado Assessor’s Association. She and Edmund enjoyed traveling throughout the state to attend numerous state conventions. Roberta retired as county assessor in 1995.
Though she was busy working and raising a family in Wray, the family farming operation in Idalia was always very important to her. The Helling wheat harvest meals always included Roberta’s famous fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy.
First Christian Church in Wray was Roberta’s church home. She joined in 1950 and was a member for 69 years. Over the years she taught Sunday School, served as Sunday School Superintendent and was elected the first female elder of the church. She also served as president, secretary and treasurer of the board and was a long-time member of Christian Women’s Fellowship. Roberta could be found at any church function as she enjoyed all church activities and was the only one who knew how to run the old coffee machine!
Roberta loved her hometown of Wray. She spent much of her life supporting and promoting the development of the community. In 1993, Roberta was chosen as one of the citizens to represent Wray in Tampa, Florida for the All-American City competition. She then traveled to Washington DC with Jane Buchanan and Becky Bledsoe to receive the award from President Bill Clinton and it was truly a highlight of her life. In 1995 Roberta became a director on the board of the new Hillcrest and Towers Health Care facility. She was an instrumental part of the project and over 14 years served as director, president and secretary of the board. But Roberta was not finished. She still had a senior center to build. Roberta worked tirelessly as a board member of the 55 & Over Club to help apply for grants for a new senior center and in a few short years, the new Wray Senior Community Center was built. Roberta continued to volunteer at the center for many years at Meet and Eat.
Roberta Helling was also a member of and served in many leadership roles in the American Legion Auxiliary, Rebekahs Lodge, Bustles and Bows square dance club, Tuesday Study Club, Northeast Colorado Bookmobile, Yuma County Republican Women and served as president of the Wray Chamber of Commerce. She loved quilting and it was especially important to her to donate quilts to the Tennyson Center for Children. She enjoyed watching any and all activities that her grandchildren participated in.
Roberta is survived by her son, Richard of Minneapolis, MN, son, Kenny and wife, Nancy of Wray, beloved grandchildren, William and Stephanie, sister, Lucy Eastin and husband, Dwaine of Eckley, brother, Everett of Wray, brother in law, Raymond Helling and wife, Joyce of Idalia, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
From humble beginnings, Roberta Alzene Helling rose to be a highly successful elected official at a time when many women weren’t involved in politics in Yuma County. She was truly a pioneer and was definitely ahead of her time. She gave of herself to her family, church and community in ways that we will all benefit from for many years to come.
She passed away June 12, 2019 at the Wray Community District Hospital in Wray, Colorado.
A Receiving of Family & Friends was held Monday, June 17, 2019 from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at the Schmidt-Jones Funeral Home, 427 Adams Street, in Wray, Colorado. Funeral Services were held n Tuesday, June 18, 2019, 2:00 p.m. at the First Christian Church in Wray, Colorado with Pastor Steve Wynkoop officiating. Interment will be in the Grandview Cemetery in Wray, Colorado following services.
Memorials may be made to the 55 & Over Club, 741 W. 7th Street, Wray, Colorado 80758, First Christian Church, 534 Grant Street, Wray, Colorado 80758 or the Tennyson Center for Children, 2950 Tennyson St., Denver, CO 80212.
Schmidt-Jones Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.