The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 5, 2014

Helen L. Droessler Grabowska


— Helen L. Droessler Grabowska





  Helen L. Droessler Grabowska, longtime educator and mentor of thousands of teachers throughout the upper Midwest, died Thursday, April 3, 2014 in Mankato, Minnesota.  She was born September 28, 1920 in Bancroft, Iowa, daughter of A.A. Droessler and Rose Mescher Droessler.

 Helen was educated at St. John's High School in Bancroft, graduating in 1937 as valedictorian, and received her B.A. from The College of St. Teresa in Winona, Minnesota in 1941. She taught high school English, History, German and Biology and directed student plays at high schools in Austin, Wabasso and St. Peter, Minnesota and Bancroft, Iowa before taking a position as Education Advisor to the Department of the Army in Occupied Japan from 1951-53, where she operated an education center for American servicemen in Eta Jima.

 She returned to the United States and received an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she met Ph.D. student Mel Grabowska of Leola, South Dakota. They married in 1955 in Bancroft, lived in Madison and Beloit, Wisconsin and St. Cloud, Minnesota before moving to Aberdeen, South Dakota, where she became an Assistant Professor of Education at Northern State College (now University). She was the first female faculty member to give the commencement address at an NSU graduation ceremony and was named Teacher of the Year in 1979.

 Helen was a member of the Aberdeen Shakespeare Club, the League of Women Voters, the American Association of University Women, Retired Teachers, the South Dakota Humanities Reading Series and Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and served on the City Planning Commission. After her retirement from NSU in 1987 she tutored students in Literacy and English as a Second Language and was a docent at the Dacotah Prairie Museum. She was known and loved for her insatiable intellectual curiosity, astonishing memory, fierce independence, and devotion to her husband, children and her Catholic faith.

 She is survived by three sons: Jim (Kimberly Contag) of St. Clair, Minnesota; Dave (Pam Gefre) of Asheville, North Carolina; John (Monica Dailey) of Shepherdstown, West Virginia and grandchildren Alex, Hilary, Sierra, Andrew & Ben. She is also survived by brothers John and Bill of Bancroft, Iowa and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by three brothers, four sisters and her beloved husband Mel.

Memorials may be sent to the Helen Grabowska Scholarship, c/o NSU Foundation & Alumni Association, Beckman Building, 620 15th Avenue SE, Aberdeen, S.D. 57401.