Helen Elaine Rinke of Peoria passed away on December 11, 2017, at Cornerstone Rehabilitation Center in Peoria Heights, IL. Helen was born in Fairbury, IL, to Clarence M. Stitzel and Hazel Donagh Stitzel.
Helen grew up in Canton, IL, and took classes at Bradley University, where Sam J. Stone was one of her favorite professors. After WWII, she lived in Evanston, IL, with her brother and his wife while working and saving money from various jobs. Using her earnings, she traveled to Europe in the early 1950s at a time when few women traveled by themselves. She visited England, France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy, where she was allowed to touch Michelangelo’s famous statue, The Pietà, in Vatican City. She met Mr. Herman Rinke in Europe, and the couple later married and settled in New York. The couple divorced in 1971, and Helen was remarried to Mr. Henry Ruschmeyer. Living for many years in the New York City area, Helen was known as a fun and gracious hostess who loved showing family and friends around. A great animal lover, she ran a private cat shelter for many years. A lover of trains and transit, Helen also volunteered at the Connecticut Trolley Museum, where she learned to operate street cars. After the death of her second husband, Helen traveled and visited friends, eventually returning to Canton and Peoria.
Helen was preceded in death by her husbands, her parents, and her brother, James Arthur Stitzel. She is survived by her nephews, David and Kendal Stitzel, of Fort Collins, CO; grandnephew Caleb Stitzel of Fort Collins, CO; grandniece Margaret Stitzel of Detroit, MI; and grandniece Tierney Branson of Grand Forks, ND.
A brief graveside memorial will be held on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, at 1 PM at Greenwood Cemetery in Canton, IL. Please bring a memory about Helen or a favorite scripture. Please give memorials to the ASPCA or any organization that promotes kindness to animals. The family gives sincere thanks to the many friends and kind people who helped, supported, and loved Helen over the years. To make online condolences you may go to www.sedgwickfuneralhomes.com