Helen Theresa (Trukositz) Nuxoll, 104, was born on the Fourth of July, 1912. Everyone in the United States, she said, celebrated her birthday. A widow for nearly 30 years after almost 55 happy years of marriage to Ralph L. Nuxoll, she died on Oct. 17, 2016, of heart failure in the home in which they raised their family in Grangeville. In recent years, she stayed winters with their oldest child, Adonna Yuse, in Spokane, Wash., but insisted on living in Idaho for the summer so she could tend her garden. When her children wanted someone with her in case she might fall, she made it clear that she did not want that someone to be a stranger. “There are five of you,” she said. “If you insist on having someone here, then you deal with it!” So, they took turns. Adonna and Hospice were with her at the end, but she was ready. She had already carefully taken care of her most important concerns, especially voting for the nation’s first woman president. She insisted she be taken personally to the Idaho County Courthouse to turn in her absentee ballot but her choice was not secret. She always believed women should eventually run the world.
Born in the backwoods of Forest, Idaho, as the oldest of five children of Austrian and Hungarian homesteaders, Julius and Agnes Trukositz, she spoke only German until starting grade school. She recalled being at first teased and called “Dutchie” in the one room school in Forest. By then her father, who had become “boss of the woods” for Winchester’s Craigmont Timber Company, had seen to its building and staffing for the children of his crew. When high school time came, she worked at ironing and housework for her room and board in Winchester during the week. She often walked through snow and woods eight miles home on the weekends and back to school on Mondays. She became so convinced of the value of education that she decided to become a teacher and continued to Lewiston Normal School, graduating in June 1931 with her teaching certificate. She began teaching that fall in the long ago disappeared one-room Icicle Flats school at the headwaters of Lawyers Canyon creek. But at age 19, during the Depression, a contract of $600 for the entire school year was quite respectable. She carefully kept her copy of it her entire life.
Shortly after starting to teach she met Ralph, a dashing young farmer in his 20s. He, in turn, was so smitten by her that at Christmas he struggled to drive his team and sled from his Cottonwood farm, almost overturning in the drifts while circling her school dressed as Santa to deliver gifts to her and her students. He had lost his own mother at age three, and she quickly realized he would always be kind to her. He, in turn, constantly prayed that his children would always have their mother while growing up. His prayers were certainly answered. Their children are all now of Social Security age.
Twenty days after her twentieth birthday, on July 24, 1932, they walked in together with the Greencreek parish priest, Father Baerlocher, to be married at the Sunday high Mass and started their life together on what was their small honeymoon farm. By 1939, they were overjoyed by the birth of their first three children, Adonna, Jay and Roger, despite their crops being destroyed by hail five out of seven years. Ralph, already totally fascinated by tractors and new farm machinery, was happy to leave his farm to begin his long career as an International Harvester dealer for John Hoene Implement. The family moved to Cottonwood, but during the war to Grangeville where he ran the dealership there. Helen took her three oldest kids with her when she taught two years at the one-room Adkison School, which served the Tolo Lake area, and then just Roger for another two years at Mount Idaho. She was for each school the last teacher before they closed or were consolidated with the Grangeville School District. In December 1945, the family moved for the last time into the family home. She later taught a bit at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Grangeville, but only after her last two children, Max and Carla, born some 15 or more years after her first three, were old enough to be students there.
When Ralph had his first heart attack she was only 69. She decided it was due to lack of exercise. So, she started running every evening, rain, snow or shine from her home one block off West Main Street to the east side of Grangeville to touch what was then the Nez Perce National Forest Building, and run back. She kept that up faithfully even after Ralph died in 1986, running that route every evening until her late 80’s, then switched to run south to the high school building because, she said: “Coming back was all downhill.” It is true she slowed down after 90 but she kept walking, perhaps less than briskly, around the hospital block three times every evening. She truly believed exercise was why she had lived so long. It bothered her towards the end at age 104 that she could not walk even half a block without having to stop to catch her breath.
After a first big 80th birthday party thrown by her children, grandchildren and relatives she continued having annual birthday parties. Her 100th in 2012 involved an open invitation to all who knew her, and about 300 came. A great dancer, gardener and huckleberry picker, wonderful bridge player, singer in the choir and self-taught piano player, she read everything she could get her hands on. She did the daily crosswords and the Jumble in ink religiously to keep her mental acuity, also tutored many adults who needed help in belatedly learning to read. She was famous for her ability to use leftovers, but shocked to hear herself touted by a niece teaching home economics as being able to make bread out of potato salad. She would later laugh when questioned but never revealed whether she could or not. She would use it up; fix it up; and make it do because of her survival instincts honed during the Depression. But still, she had that sweet tooth and would sometimes eat ice cream for her meals. She sewed (even darned socks). For each of her children and grandchildren she created an individualized patchwork quilt, using pieces of fabric from dresses some of them recall her wearing years earlier, and presented the grandchildren theirs upon graduation from high school. For her 100th birthday celebration each brought photos of their quilt to share.
Last year, she was still going to the woods picking huckleberries, stooping over for even the lowest ones on the bush. This summer she barely managed with help to attend the Grangeville Senior Citizens lunch in September and October. But she clearly enjoyed the wonderful visit from the Border Days and other rodeo royalty who came to sing happy birthday to her after attending their 4th of July luncheon at the
Eagles Lodge next door. Her photo with them appeared in the Free Press.
Her parents, her husband, her and his brothers and sisters, her closest friends with whom she had loved to play cards, all died before her. She did her share in continuing to populate a huge family relationship in which her children have 74 first cousins. Surviving are her five adult children: Adonna Yuse of Spokane, Jay (Julie) of Bellevue, Wash., Roger of Foster City, Calif., Max (Joan) of Cottonwood, and Carla (Jim Braukmann) of Spokane; 20 adult grandchildren; and many already adult but still rapidly increasing numbers of great grandchildren. A rosary service will be held at 10:30 a.m. at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Grangeville, Idaho, before the funeral Mass with a celebration of her life at 11 a.m. on Nov. 12, 2016. After lunch in the hall her burial will follow at the Catholic Cemetery of St. Anthony’s Parish in Greencreek next to her husband whose father donated the land for the cemetery from his own homestead in 1903. Since Jesus promised even a glass of cold water given in His name would receive its reward in Heaven, hers must certainly be great. She fought a good long fight and kept the faith. May we all hope to be some day so greatly loved and sorely missed. Send condolences to Blackmerfuneralhome.com.
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