Cover photo for Helen Watkins's Obituary
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1928 Helen 2022

Helen Watkins

July 27, 1928 — August 29, 2022

Helen Renee Watkins, 94, of Fergus Falls, died, August 29, 2022 at Lake Region Healthcare.

She was born July 27, 1928, in Hettinger, North Dakota, the ninth child of Ebba Berg and Elmer Hokenson (originally of Pelican Rapids). The Great Depression drove the family to the relatively greener pastures of Minnesota in 1936. She graduated from Chisago City High School and then from Concordia College in 1950. After teaching business education in rural Minnesota, she moved to Colorado, where she fell in love with a young Texan who attracted her attention by volunteering to wash dishes at a YMCA outing. A few months later, in 1953, she married Air Force Sergeant William H. Watkins and began her years of service to her country as a military wife. (Best not to ask how often Bill washed dishes after that!)

That service brought her from Colorado to Alaska, Washington state, Kansas, back to Alaska, North Dakota, and finally four years in England. During those years Helen dedicated herself to raising three children, Billy, David, and Elizabeth, volunteering with church and scouts, and working as a librarian and school secretary. Leaving England in 1974, the family had to decide where to retire, somewhere that would be convenient to seeing both Helen's Minnesota family and Bill's Texas family: Fergus Falls was clearly the ideal compromise!

While in Fergus Falls, Helen kept busy with gardening, cooking, working for the Camp Fire Girls, singing in the choir at First Lutheran and serving in her church circle, making money with the Investment Club and spending some of it on things to show the Antiquarians, meeting friends around the country at Bill's tool collector meetings, continuing for over 60 years a "round-robin" letter chain with her best friends from Concordia, and traveling to see family and friends in Hong Kong, China, and Sweden.

In recent years, and especially after Bill's death in 2020, she experienced the inevitable aches and pains of old age, but to the very end, her mind was sharp. She was ready to go, but in the meantime, she was fully engaged with the people and events around her.

Two of her granddaughters, Ruth and Emma, were visiting her at the end of August. On the evening before their departure, they prepared a meal of chicken pot pie, salad, and blueberry-peach cobbler. At the end of the meal, Helen jokingly repeated what Bill had always said over 67 years of marriage, the words that are on his gravestone in Fort Snelling: "Pretty good, what there was of it."

A couple of hours later, she died, with a full belly and her beloved granddaughters at her side. She had requested that four words be inscribed on the gravestone that she will share with Bill, words that apply both to her 94 years on this earth and to her heavenly home: "Happy to be here."

Helen was preceded in death by her Mama and Papa, her eight older siblings, her husband, and her son David. Her memory will be honored by her younger brother Rodney, David's wife Jeanne, and many other surviving family members and friends.

Gifts may be made in her memory to First Lutheran Church , Fergus Falls Public Library , or Otter Tail County Historical Society

Memorial Service: 11:00 a.m. Friday, September 9, 2022, at First Lutheran Church in Fergus Falls, with visitation one-hour prior to the service.
Clergy: Reverend Tiffany Sundeen
Interment: Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Minneapolis, MN Friday, October 28, 2022 at 1:30 p.m., meet at assembly area #6 at 1:15 p.m.

Arrangements provided by Olson Funeral Home in Fergus Falls.
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Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, September 9, 2022

10:00 - 11:00 am (Eastern time)

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Memorial Service

Friday, September 9, 2022

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Friday, October 28, 2022

Starts at 1:30 pm (Eastern time)

Fort Snelling

, Minneapolis, MN

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