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The world was different 100 years ago, and Helen Neudorf knows it well.
On May 14, the Abbotsford resident celebrated a century of life.
She was born in Eigenheim, Sask. in 1912. She and her family were the first generation of immigrant Mennonites from the Ukraine born in Canada.
Her older brother died at 18 of pneumonia, and her three older brothers left home, so it fell upon 17-year-old Helen to haul the grain from the elevators to Laird (about three miles away) with a wagon and horses. She did that from early in the morning till late in the evening.
As a young woman, she worked as domestic help for a professional in Saskatoon.
Helen met a young man at her younger sister’s wedding, and a year later, in 1935, they were married. It was a simple service in Eigenheim church on a Sunday afternoon before harvest began, with a reception of coffee and buns in her parents’ yard.
Helen was among the first of her generation to break with the tradition of black wedding dresses; hers was white, and cost $10.
Helen and her husband had three children, and made their livelihood by farming around Rosthern, Sask.
In 1945, they were first in their rural area to have electricity installed in their house. This was such a novelty that Helen’s son told her that anytime they wanted the light turned on, they should immediately call him in from where he was playing outside.
Electricity also offered Helen respite from the tedious and messy job of cleaning the household’s kerosene lamps.
In October 1947, the family moved to the Fraser Valley. They lived in Chilliwack near the Vedder canal, and then seven months later found themselves in the flood of June 1948.
“We had so much water that it reached the rafters of the barn, and the house smelled so bad that dad had to build a new one,” recalls Helen’s daughter, Marlene Vigh.
In June 1951, the family moved to Abbotsford, where farm work was exchanged for construction work and other jobs.
Helen’s husband had a stroke in 1984, and she nursed him until he died three years later. Helen moved into Alliance Manor in 2003, and then joined a Hallmark retirement community in 2009.
In addition to farm work and raising three children, Helen worked as a cook, sang in the choir, played organ, carpet-bowled, baked delicious buns until her early 90s, and crocheted many afghans for family and friends.