Cover photo for Helen Berge Richards's Obituary
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Helen Berge Richards

September 10, 1943 — May 26, 2023

Olathe

Helen B. Richards, 79, passed away on May 26, 2023, in Olathe, KS. She was in hospice care at the Healthcare Resort of Olathe at the time of her passing. In March of 2023, Helen had fallen at home and fractured her hip. After surgical repair, a short rehab stay, a return to the hospital, and another attempt at rehab, she entered hospice status on May 2, 2023. Helen’s congestive heart failure condition reduced her strength such that she was not capable of continuing rehab.

Helen was born on September 10, 1943, to Margaret E. Berge and Clarence M. Cornwall, in Flint, Michigan. Clarence shipped out for the Pacific region at the same time of Helen’s birth. Soon after Clarence’s return to the U.S., Margaret and Helen returned to Nebraska to live with Margaret’s parents, Clyde, and Louise Berge. Helen’s birth parents divorced shortly afterward. When Margaret re-married, Helen continued to live with her grandparents because of the close bond they had formed. When Helen was 6 her grandparents legally adopted her. Helen then grew up in Sabetha, KS and later acknowledged she always felt secure because she felt that she was protected by two sets of parents. Her mother did not live far away, and Helen was able to spend time with Margaret, stepfather Ralph Brown, and three sisters who joined that family.

Helen is survived by her husband Gary, of their home in Olathe, and son Brian of Overland Park, KS. Also surviving are four sisters, Carolyn Alley of Frankfort, KS, Cathy Garrett of Yreka, CA,
Connie Barnhart (Mitch) of Frankfort, KY, and Linda Cornwall Malm of Spring Hill, FL. She also is survived by sister-in-law Vickie Cornwall of Hurst, TX and sister-in-law Trish Richards Kerns
(Gary) of Sacramento, CA. Pre-deceasing her are parents Clyde and Louise Berge, stepfather Ralph Brown, mother Margaret Brown, father Clarence Cornwall, and brother Robert Cornwall.
Numerous nieces, nephews and their children are among the survivors.

Helen grew up in Sabetha, KS and graduated from high school in 1961. With the encouragement of one of her teachers, she raised her sights on going to college. She won a Scholarship Hall award from the University of Kansas. She joined the group of women at Miller Hall and lived there until graduating with a degree in elementary education in 1965. She always enjoyed reminding Gary that her diploma included “With Distinction.” Soon after starting at KU, Helen met Gary at a social mixer for the scholarship halls. Fittingly, this gathering was called the All Hall Fall Ball, a casual dance at a patio area near Potter’s Lake. They dated until Gary graduated the following spring and started his service as a Supply Corps officer in the U. S. Navy. A week after Helen’s graduation at KU, she and Gary were married, on June 12, 1965, on campus at Danforth Chapel. Following the wedding they honeymooned near Carmel, CA. The lodge they stayed at was the Tickle Pink (still in operation), adding another humorous name to their life story. They lived in Monterey, CA where Gary served as Disbursing Officer at the Naval Postgraduate School and Helen taught third grade in Salinas, CA. In late 1966 Gary received orders. A normal rotation would have sent him to overseas shore duty. The Vietnam War changed normal rotations, however, and Gary selected a year of sea duty deployed overseas. Before departing Helen was able to join Gary in Norfolk, VA as his ship completed preparations for deployment. While Gary was deployed, Helen taught third grade at Dorothy Moody Elementary School in Overland Park, KS. Gary returned in June of 1968 and finished his active duty at the Olathe Naval Air Station. That summer they traveled to San Antonio (Hemisfair), New Orleans, and several other southern cities. In August they moved to Lawrence and Helen taught third grade at Centennial Elementary School while Gary completed a two-year MBA program at KU. (One of Helen’s students was Erin Pattee Brockovich.) In the summer of 1970 Gary and Helen moved to an apartment in Shawnee as Gary started
employment with Arthur Andersen & Co., in their consulting division. Helen left teaching and worked in the insurance industry. In November of 1971 they adopted their son Brian. A year
later they bought their first house and moved to Merriam. Helen and Gary lived in their home in Vernon Place for 33 years. They were both active in the homes association and St. Michael and All Angels Church. Helen taught Sunday School and was a very active member of the Altar Guild at St. Michael’s. In the fall of 2005, they moved to Olathe. Gary was working for the IRS at that time, and he retired in February of 2007. Helen had to deal with serious medical conditions her entire life. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in December of 1958. In 1978 she was diagnosed with celiac disease. Many in the Kansas City area who also experienced Celiac disease greatly appreciated Helen’s willingness to share her knowledge and practical food tips on how to live as normal a life as possible with this disease. In 1998 Helen had a heart bypass. An additional stent was inserted in 2010. She had various other medical challenges, including several fractured bones and several hand surgeries. Helping Helen meet all her medical challenges was a group of exceptional doctors. That group includes, but is not limited to, Robert Wilber, Mitchell Hamburg, Sara O’Connell, Darren Davis, Bhavika Bhan, Stella Quiason, and Steven Geduldig.

Helen was admired by all for making them feel genuinely loved and cared for. She was a devoted cat owner for over 40 years.

A memorial service will be held for Helen on Saturday, July 8, 2023, at 2 pm, at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, 6630 Nall Avenue, Mission KS, 66202. The family requests no flowers, but memorial gifts may be made to St. Michael’s, or to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (online donations at www.jdrf.org/donate).

Donations:

St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church
6330 Nall Ave., Mission KS 66202
Tel: 1-913-236-8600
Web: http://www.stmaa.com/

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
200 Vesey Street, 28th Floor, New York NY 10281
Tel: 1-800-533-2873
Email: info@jdrf.org
Web: https://www2.jdrf.org

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Helen Berge Richards, please visit our flower store.

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St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church

6630 Nall Avenue
Mission, KS 66202

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