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Helen Marie Engelbrecht, 92

June 19, 1925 to July 10, 2017

Mrs. Helen Marie Hawthorne Engelbrecht, 92, of Granville, Illinois, died Monday, July 10, 2017, at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago. A long-term breast cancer survivor, she was diagnosed with chronic leukemia in 2011, which progressed to acute leukemia only in 2017, and she succumbed to a correlated stroke after only a brief hospitalization.

Helen Marie Hawthorne was born June 19, 1925 in Spring Valley, Bureau County, Illinois, the elder daughter of Edw. E. and Olive S. (Wood) Hawthorne. She married first Ernest K. Odum Aug. 27, 1955. They later divorced. She married Kenneth W. Engelbrecht in the First Congregational Church of Granville (now UCC, Congregational) on Aug. 29, 1959.

Mrs. Engelbrecht was educated in the local schools. She attended Granville Grade School and graduated from Hopkins Township High School in Granville in 1943, where among her other activities, she played clarinet in the concert and marching bands, besides being a member of 4-H. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics Education and a Master of Science degree in General Home Economics from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Upon completing her bachelor's in 1947, Mrs. Engelbrecht returned to Granville and taught home ec at HTHS until 1950. She then completed her master's degree and taught home ec for eight years at J. Sterling Morton High School in Cicero/Berwyn, IL. She taught at Illinois Valley Community College part-time for several years soon after its establishment in the 1960s. From April 1975 until her retirement Jan. 1, 1992, Mrs. Engelbrecht was employed as Administrator of the Putnam County local office of the IL Dept. of Public Aid (later renamed the IL Dept. of Health and Human Services).

Mrs. Engelbrecht was extensively involved in community activities. She was a charter member of Psi Omega women's club, serving as 1st and 13th president; she was a member of professional home economics organizations, including the IL Home Economics Association (IHEA), AHEA, IVHEA, AVHEA, Marshall-Putnam Home Economists in Homemaking, and the Uniters Home Extension unit. Always civic-minded, for many years she helped organize local charitable fund drives. Notably, she served in 1969-70 as the Putnam County Chair of the White House Conference on Children and Youth, and she had been co-Area Coordinator pushing the referendum to establish IVCC.

Mr. and Mrs. Engelbrecht together served as co-Chairs of the successful promotion to create the Putnam County Conservation District in 1966, one of a handful of the earliest such conservation bodies in the state. Mrs. Engelbrecht was the last surviving charter trustee of the PCCD Board, of which she was 1st and 3rd president, and 2nd and 4th secretary. She was also deeply involved with the organization of the Illinois Association of Conservation Districts, and in 1992 she received the Burton H. Atwood Award for Excellence in Conservation, having served as 1st elected president of the IACD. She remained a member of several national nature and conservation groups at the time of her death.

In 1990, Mrs. Engelbrecht was elected to the Granville Cemetery Association board; from 1991 to 2011, she served as its secretary-treasurer, the fourth member of the Hawthorne family to serve the cemetery board. In 2000, she helped lead the local opposition to Corridor A and its extension, a proposed highway from Peoria to Chicago: the proposal was defeated. Also politically active, in the mid-1970s she ran for public office, but was narrowly defeated in her quest to become Putnam County Clerk.

Mrs. Engelbrecht was a life-long member of the First Congregational Church of Granville (now United Church of Christ, Congregational) and served as a deacon for a time, among other church offices and activities, including Pilgrim Fellowship in her youth. She held life memberships in the University of Illinois Alumni Assoc and Phi Mu Fraternity, Delta Beta Chapter (a social sorority), and in the Putnam County Historical Society, of which her father had been a charter member. She was an active founding member of the Hopkins Township High School Alumni Association and was largely responsible for keeping the HTHS Class of '43 in touch over the years, helping organize many Class and HTHS AA reunions.

Mrs. Engelbrecht had many interests. She enjoyed the pleasures of her profession--of homemaking--the sewing and crafts, food preparation, home decorating, and family relationships. She particularly liked family, and pursued family genealogy with gusto, for example, compiling a massive family history for descendants of her grandfather, W.E. Hawthorne, and collecting the extant poems of her uncle, O. Lawrence Hawthorne into a similarly massive volume. She organized and hosted several large Hawthorne family reunions, and kept in close touch with many beloved cousins by letter, phone, and email.

The granddaughter of Granville Echo and Putnam County Record founder, publisher and editor W.E. Hawthorne, and daughter of publisher and editor Edw. E. Hawthorne, Mrs. Engelbrecht was both highly verbal and historically minded, a diligent, reliable source of local historical fact and trivia, besides having a prodigious memory for interesting stories, both about herself and her family and about the wider community. She wrote many detailed historical articles for the Putnam County Record in recent decades, and was featured in an informational video produced by Peoria TV for the HTHS Alumni Association and its museum.

Mrs. Engelbrecht enjoyed writing, and in addition to a vast personal correspondence and family documentation, she had recorded the histories of many groups to which she belonged. Believing in organization and the need for recorded regulation, she had drafted the adopted by-laws for the PCCD and the GCA, the Psi Omega club and HTHS AA. She prepared a guidebook for the burials of all veterans for the Granville Legion Post 180.

In later years, Mrs. Engelbrecht eased back from public life, but continued to enjoy her life-long interests in music, reading, travel, and family connections. She developed a passion for watching videos and DVDs, including many documentaries about WWII, a period which was the touchstone of her generation and personal life history. A romantic and an idealist, her favorite movie was Dr. Zhivago, watched over and again until the video tape wore out. She never tired of movies or books or people and activities she enjoyed!

Mrs. Engelbrecht was diligent in her vocation, her avocations, and her hobbies, yet she took great pleasure in what was often hard work for the public good. In 2002, the Granville Village Board honored her wide achievements by nominating her for the Illinois Humanities Council Studs Terkel Award, which she received, a significant state-wide recognition of which she was justly proud.

Helen Marie Hawthorne Engelbrecht is survived by two daughters, Penelope J. Engelbrecht and Heidi J. E. (Gerald J.) Sobkowiak, of Granville; locally by her sister, Mrs. Shirley Mae (Hawthorne) Barnes, nephew James E. Barnes, and niece Priscilla Sue Barnes (Trent) Tevis, all of Granville; and by sisters-in-law Mrs. LuVerne (the late Robert) Buchele of Honolulu, HI, and Mrs. Jeanette (Walter) Whisler of Wilmette, IL, as well as dear nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends across the country. She was preceded in death by her husband in 2003, her father in 1982, and her mother in 1990.

Memorials may be directed to the Putnam County Historical Society, the Granville United Church of Christ, Congregational, or the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.





Service/Memorial Information

Visitation will be 5-7pm Friday, July 14 at Dysart-Cofoid Funeral Chapel, Granville. Visitation will also be held from 11-11:30am Saturday, July 15 at United Church of Christ, Congregational, Granville. Funeral service will immediately follow visitation at 11:30am Saturday at the UCC church. Cremation will be accorded with private interment to follow in the Granville Cemetery at a later date.

Helen Marie's Guestbook Sign Guestbook

  • Prayer"I would like to add to Helen Marie's many accolades.
    Helen Marie contacted Cheryle Wood and myself in 1999 in regard to a grass roots campaign called No-Way Corridor A, which was an attempt to put a 4 lane highway connecting RT 29 to I-80. The idea was to route this highway right through Putnam County, cutting it in half one more time. I accidentally ran across her obituary looking for another one today (August 3, 2017). After reading her life history, it's easy to see how she and her committee took the bull by the horns and was successful in stopping the highway from going through what is left of Putnam County (once the largest county in the state). Our Condolences to Family and Friends. The Country could use a lot more Helen Maries. Eileen Butte & Cheryle Wood"
    Tribute from: Eileen Butte
    August 4, 2017
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  • Prayer"Dear Penelope, Heidi, Shirley Mae, and family, may peace be with you . I will miss my Aunt and her fabulous, faithful correspondence thru the years ( handwritten letters , a lost art ! And she had the most beautiful penmanship. ) I am thinking about you all today as it is the day of her funeral. Rest in peace, dearest Aunt."Tribute from: Toni Barnes, Niece
    July 16, 2017
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  • Prayer"Rest in Peace
    She was a life long friend and class mate of James Barnard who just passed away at 3:18 this morning."
    Tribute from: Linda Barnard
    July 16, 2017
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  • candle"Shirley Mae, Penelope, and Heidi- Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of you in your loss. Helen Marie was,a lovely lady and so knowledgeable. She contributed so much to your community.
    We send our deepest condolences.

    Sincerely
    Wayne and Rosana Benson"
    Tribute from: Wayne and Rosana Benson
    July 15, 2017
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  • Prayer"My sympathy and prayers to all of Helen Marie's family. I babysat for Penelope and Heidi in my teenage years, and was always amazed at Helen Marie's home economics knowledge and skills. She ws a devoted wife to Kenneth, and I remember how frequently she would visit him in long term care. She will be fondly remembered in the community."Tribute from: Karen Zellers Karczewski
    July 15, 2017
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  • candle"So sorry for your loss Heidi and Penny and all of your family. Helen Marie was a wonderful lady and will be missed."Tribute from: Joyce(ossola)dove
    July 14, 2017
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  • candle"So sorry for your loss Heidi and Penny and all of your family. Helen Marie was a wonderful lady and will be missed."Tribute from: Joyce(ossola)dove
    July 14, 2017
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  • candle"Sorry for your loss, Penny. My thoughts are with you and your family."Tribute from: Mindy Sammons
    July 13, 2017
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  • Lily"My husband Bill and I will miss Helen Marie and send our sympathy to all her close family. She was a first cousin of my father, yet because she was only 16 years older than I, seemed to be partly of my generation. We maintained a close friendship, correspondence, and interest in genealogy throughout the years.

    Bill and I will be forever grateful for the visit that she and Heidi made to us in Wisconsin nearly two years ago. That will be our final picture of the strong, intelligent, and inspiring woman she was."
    Tribute from: Susan Hawthorne Plank
    July 12, 2017
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