(Posted Sept. 3, 2015)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Helen Haenszel cried when she found out she was named grand marshal of this year’s Ox Roast parade.
“Only if you live in a small town do you understand how special an honor something like this is,” she said.
Helen’s roots are firmly planted in West Jefferson. Generations of her family have called the village home, and she herself is a lifelong resident. Counted among her relatives are four former West Jefferson mayors.
Even if she isn’t related to someone in town, Helen treats everyone like family. She is the type of person who gets involved anywhere she can be of help.
At West Jefferson United Methodist Church, Helen is one of the “church basement ladies,” helping with dinners, the annual bazaar and the altar committee. At West Jefferson High School football games, she sells tickets while her husband, Bear, sells programs. She and her Roughrider classmates celebrated their 50th reunion this summer.
A cause close to Helen’s heart is the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, for which she has served on several committees, from organizing the auction to setting up for the survivors dinner. She and her Relay teammates hold an annual dinner at Ann & Tony’s and a huge bake sale to raise money.
“I’m a five-year breast cancer survivor. I got involved because I’ve lost a lot of family and friends to the disease,” she said.
Helen is a regular volunteer at West Jefferson’s Christmas in the Park. Years ago, she helped to paint many of the decorations, and now she helps to sort lights and serve food during opening weekend.
She also is a member of the Madison Herb Society and holds an annual holiday craft bazaar with friends. For anyone who requests it, she calls people up to sing them “Happy Birthday” as the “birthday fairy.”
“I’m always busy,” she said, “and I’d like to thank my husband for all of his support in helping me to be able to volunteer.”
Helen and Bear will continue their tradition of holding a big Labor Day weekend party for family and friends. As always, it will involve time spent at the Ox Roast and the purchase of many, many Ox Roast sandwiches. The added fun this year will be celebrating Helen’s selection as grand marshal.
Helen and Bear have two children, Bryan and Jill, and five grandchildren, Conner, Blake, Madison, Brandon and Lauren.
This year’s West Jefferson Ox Roast parade is set for Sept. 5. The theme is “Proud to be an American.” Line-up starts at 11 a.m. and the parade steps off promptly at noon. Parade awards will be posted outside the Ox Box. For information about participating in the parade, contact Sandy Boucher at (614) 879-9662.