The Ottumwa Courier

January 26, 2013

Helen Thorne, 71, Washington


WASHINGTON — Helen Louise Thorne, 71, of Washington, died Jan. 20, 2013, in Waimea, Kauai, Hawaii, following a two-year battle with cancer.

Helen was born July 1, 1941, in Chicago, Ill., the daughter of William and Mary (Wheeler) Gilbert. Helen was united in marriage to John Thorne on June 27, 1970, in Ottumwa.  

She graduated from Chariton High School and later went on to attend Simpson College, the University of Iowa and Northwest Missouri State University.  

Helen has been a resident of Washington since 1970. She was a photographer for the Washington Evening Journal and the Fairfield Ledger. She later taught swimming lessons and Joint Effort classes at the YMCA, and she was also employed as the Technical Theater Director for Washington High School.

Helen was a member of the United Presbyterian Church, where she was active as a deacon and session leader. She enjoyed doing artwork for the church, was a longtime member of the church choir and served on the preschool board. Helen was active in the Washington Community Theater, where she served on the board and assisted with productions as a costumer. She also served on the Washington Concert Association Board. She was a member of the P.E.O. Sisterhood Chapter J and was a charter member of Chapter O.C. Helen volunteered at the Washington Junior High School in their sewing and community writers classes. Helen was a Campfire Leader for several years. Despite her many activities, Helen’s main focus was caring for her family. She enjoyed trips to Hawaii and the time she spent with her husband, daughters and grandchildren.

Helen is survived by her husband, John Thorne of Washington; daughters, Mary (Michael) Mendelin of Bettendorf and Sandra (Kevin) Abbott of Urbandale; five grandchildren, John and Leah Mendelin of Bettendorf and Elizabeth, Audrey and Olivia Abbott of Urbandale; brothers, Richard (Julie Gammack) Gilbert of Gulfport, Fla., Jerry (Cherie) Gilbert of Bloomfield and Fred (Carol) Gilbert of Ottumwa.

She was preceded in death by her parents; and an infant sister, Carolyn Gilbert.

Celebration of life services will be 11 a.m. Tuesday at the United Presbyterian Church in Washington; with Rev. Bob Wollenberg officiating.  

Visitation will begin at noon Monday at the Jones and Eden Funeral Home, where the family will receive friends from 5-8 p.m.

Memorials have been established for Hospice, the Washington Community Theater, the Washington Community Y or to United Presbyterian Church youth programs.  

Online condolences may be sent to Helen’s family at

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