Longtime Olympia area resident Helen Frances Phelps Class passed away on May 27, 2022.
Helen Frances Phelps was born at home on Sept. 16, 1919, in Olympia, Washington, in the small downtown house on 20th Street that is still standing. She was the third of 12 children born to Donald and Ethel Phelps. Many happy memories and colorful stories were told about growing up in a farmhouse in Tenino, Washington, with no running water or electricity. The children loved it when their mother made taffy, and every Sunday there was fried chicken and apple pie. The children would all gather around the one radio in the home to listen to Fibber McGee and Molly as well as Jack Benny. Helen would tell her grandchildren how chores were done every day, like hauling water for washing and cooking from the spring and milking the cows, tending the garden and cleaning the barn. Helen graduated from Tenino High School in 1938. She married Lyle Bundy on Sept. 27, 1939, and had three children, Carol Ann, Virginia Lee and John Ray. Helen was a very courageous and resourceful woman. She would tell stories of traveling cross country with a baby by train and driving an old Woody with three small children for hundreds of miles with no driver’s side door! She found some wood planks and nailed them to the frame to hold herself inside the car. Helen would marry Gerald “Bus” Class on Nov. 13, 1948, and have five more children, Glenda Jean, Vickie Doreen, Shirley Ann, Deanna Irene and Edward Jim.
Her children recall how their mother was the glue that held the family together through tough times. They would all gather together around the cramped kitchen table next to a warm wood cookstove listening to their mom tell stories while she drank her coffee. Each sibling would take turns sitting on the wringer washing machine as it would rock back and forth. With her husband often ill, she made sure the family was fed by raising their own meat, and fresh fruits and vegetables were grown and canned. She enjoyed quilting, which she taught her daughters to do.
Grandchildren loved staying at grandma’s house, playing outside and making eggs and bacon on the wood cookstove. Grandma Class loved to take road trips, especially to her beloved Pacific Ocean, but would be up for a trip to SeaWorld in Florida at 91 too! Digging for clams and eating fresh oysters and crab on the beach was a family tradition. She loved gardening and the outdoors and her cows and chickens. She never missed a wedding, graduation or a new baby being born, no matter where they lived. She loved adventure and even at 95 years of age she would travel up the Salmon River in Idaho by jet boat with several of her daughters and grandchildren.
Helen was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and was always a Bible student. Christian values were of the utmost importance in her life as was instilling these values in her descendants. She was always active in all her congregations. Her mind was as sharp up until weeks before her death as it was throughout her life and she could recall names and dates with amazing clarity. She utilized her iPad and emailed and Facetimed her grandchildren to stay in touch with what was going on in their lives. Her life spanned the invention of the very first telephone to the cellphone and the horse and buggy to the automobile. She took rides in a World War I biplane and then flew in modern jets. She watched silent movies as a teen and streamed entertainment on her flat screen or tablet later. She loved driving, and even when they took away her driver’s license at 93 years old, she would rebelliously drive her riding lawn mower to get her morning coffee and donut. She refused to give up her own vehicle so she could have family members drive her around when she wanted to go places.
Helen is survived by four daughters, Virginia (Ginny) Richardson, of Olympia, Vickie Eaton, of Centralia, Shirley Striebeck, of Rochester, Deanna Jackson, of Olympia, and one son, Edward Class, of Centralia; and two sisters, Alice Wyland, of Pendleton, Oregon, and Beverly Haley, of Olympia. At the time of her passing, she had a remarkable 24 grandchildren, 42 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great-grandchildren, of whom she could name with details on where they lived and what they were doing.
Preceding her in death was her husband Gerald Glen Class; one son, John Ray Bundy; two daughters, Carol Ann Wells and Glenda Jean Baugh; and one great-grandson.