Today would have been my Grandma’s 100th birthday. She only passed away this summer, just shy of a century. Our family has been collaborating on her obituary, which has been a wonderful way to remember her and capture the wonderful life she lived. She was an amazing woman and I’m so thankful for all of the time I had with her.
Helen Coelho-Fries, age 99, formerly of East Lansing, passed away peacefully at home in Claremont, CA on July 8, 2016.
She was born Helen Christine Lindquist on October 4, 1916 in Lincoln, Nebraska to Edwin L. and Amanda C. Lindquist who had immigrated to the United States from Stockholm, Sweden. She had three sisters Olivia, Thelma and Mary and three brothers Harry, Carl, and William.
Helen loved sports and in high school was an all-state athlete in basketball and track. After the untimely death of her parents and following graduation from high school, she and her sister Mary moved to Chicago where she worked for Illinois Bell Telephone Company as an operator then supervisor.
In 1942 she joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. After basic training, one of her early assignments was as a Driver so she taught herself how to drive using a GMC 6×6 Army cargo truck. Helen was among the first group of women to attend the Fort Des Moines Provisional Army Officer Training School in Iowa. She was commissioned by Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby, Director of the WAAC (later WAC) and attached to the US Army Signal Corps.
She met her future husband, Richard Joseph Coelho, an Infantry officer, at a dance in the Officers Club at Camp McCoy in Wisconsin, where the Second Infantry Division was preparing to deploy to Europe and she was on recruiting duty for the WAC.
With the liberation of Paris, she received orders to the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force Headquarters. There, First Lieutenant Lindquist managed a communications center where encrypted messages were sent and received from the front.
After V-E Day Captain Coelho obtained permission from his division commanding general to marry Helen, driving an Army jeep from Pilsen, in the Czech Republic, to Paris, across war torn Europe, to marry her in Paris on June 4, 1945 where the ceremony was performed by the mayor of the city and a Roman Catholic Army Chaplain. She received both French and American military awards for her war service.
After the war Helen lived in Evanston, IL and Denver, CO before settling in East Lansing, MI to raise her family. She was a Red Cross Gray Lady at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Colorado and at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. She attended the University of Denver and later received a diploma in Interior Design; Helen worked for Bundy’s Furniture in retailing and design.
From 1959-61 Helen, Dick and their children moved to Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais in Brazil where Dick was the Director of a Brazilian – American cultural center sponsored by the United States Information Agency.
After Dick’s retirement from Michigan State University the Coelhos moved to Charlottesville, VA where they built a home. They lived there until Dick’s death in 1989.
In 1992 Helen married William D. Fries in Honolulu, HI. Bill was a retired Navy Captain and cattle rancher in Virginia. They moved back to East Lansing where they were avid supporters of Michigan State football. Together they travelled the world including trips to Sweden, Russia, Portugal, and France among others. Helen had begun taking flying lesson before WWII and enjoyed taking them again from Bill in her seventies. She and Bill enjoyed life in East Lansing for 14 years before moving to Glastonbury, CT, to be closer to family. Bill died there in 2009.
Helen lived independently up until the last few months of her life. Shortly before her death, she moved to Claremont, CA to be with her daughter, Christine.
Helen was known for the wonderful cookies she baked for family and friends; her attention to detail and eye for design; gardens, especially roses, and her passion for Michigan State athletics. She was a long time member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in East Lansing.
Survivors include: one sister, Mary, of Billings, Montana. Four children, Joseph Coelho and his wife Elizabeth of Annapolis, MD, David Coelho of Park City, UT, Christine Harrigan of Claremont, CA and Carl Coelho and his wife Elaine of Storrs, CT. Seven grandchildren, Katy (Matt), Kevin, Alex (Christina), Gerald, Christopher (Maureen), Betsy (Christopher) and Colleen and six great-grandchildren.
Services will be held at Arlington National Cemetery at a future date. Memorial gifts in honor of Helen should be sent to the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden at Michigan State University or to The Nature Conservancy.