Helen Colby Schulte Swiers, 98, of Fort Madison, Iowa, passed away peacefully the morning of April 18, 2018 at the Kensington in Fort Madison, Iowa, surrounded by family. Helen was born nearly a century ago, but her exact age has always been the subject of much speculation. She often asserted “you are only as old as you feel” and that no one ever wants to act their age! Her birth certificate says that she was born on November 23, 1919. Helen was adopted as a baby by a Fort Madison dentist and his wife, and promptly became the princess of their household.
Helen described her childhood as a magical time where her father spoiled her rotten and encouraged her to always live life to the fullest. And she lived by that philosophy to her last day!
Helen attended St. Mary’s Academy in Nauvoo, Illinois, but she did not begin her college education until after she was married with children. She earned a Bachelor of Arts Cum Laude degree from Iowa Wesleyan University, and also graduated from the Artists’ School in Westport, Connecticut. Helen worked her way to a college education by selling art and numerous other jobs.
Over the past 98 years, she enjoyed no less than four separate and distinct careers. Helen started as an art teacher working for Southeastern Community College. She later continued to serve area children as an art teacher at Fort Madison Community School District, Burlington Community School District and the Creative Learning Center in Fort Madison.
Helen owned and operated her own real estate brokerage firm for many years known as Schulte Real Estate with offices in Fort Madison and Keokuk, Iowa. At one time, her real estate firm was the largest in southeast Iowa, where Helen served as the owner/broker.
Helen thrived as an artist nearly her entire life, only recently retiring from her chair behind the canvas. Her children and grandchildren, and countless others, enjoy her many artistic works that hang in their homes. Helen has been a featured artist at many shows and expositions, including Southeastern Community College, University of Iowa Hospitals, Mercy Hospital, and the Fort Madison Art Center. She received first place in countless competitions, including the Great River Road Art Contest. One of her paintings was presented to Governor Robert Ray to hang at the Terrace Hill Governor’s mansion and another painting is part of a permanent museum collection in Racine, Wisconsin.
Helen’s most recent career path was as an author. Her anecdotal column “Up the Down Side” was published for many years in the Daily Democrat newspaper of Fort Madison, Iowa, which focus on humor and advice for area seniors. Helen published two books and was working on a third manuscript that remained unfinished.
Helen helped start the KDME Catholic radio station in Fort Madison. She was one of the first women to be a licensed pilot in Iowa. She actively supports numerous charitable organizations.
Helen was the proud parent of five children. Her oldest daughter, Deena, suffered from severe cerebral palsy, for whom Helen had been her devoted and active advocate. Helen frequently told friends and family that her goal in life was to survive long enough so that Deena would not have to grieve the death of her mother. Deena passed away just four days before Helen on April 13th. Helen was instrumental in establishing the first area clinic for cerebral palsy that served eight Midwestern states. She was a founder of the first school for handicapped children in Lee County, Iowa.
Helen is survived by two daughters, Michele Schulte Franks of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Lynn (Gary) Schulte Hoyer of Fort Madison, and two sons, Joe (Jayme) Schulte of Waconia, Minnesota, and Craig Schulte of Montrose, Iowa, together with numerous grand-children and great grand-children. She was predeceased by her husband, Theodore H. Schulte, and her second husband, Richard Swiers, her daughter Deena Schulte, her brother, Craig Colby, an infant grand-daughter, and her natural and adoptive parents.
The family will receive friends from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 22, 2018 with a rosary to be recited at 4:00 p.m. at King-Lynk Funeral Home & Crematory. A funeral mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, April 23, 2018 at Ss. Mary & Joseph Church with Rev. Mark P. Spring officiating. Burial will be held in Gethsemane Cemetery. A memorial has been established for KDME Divine Mercy Radio or Fort Madison Area Arts Association. Online condolences to Helen’s family may be left at the King-Lynk Funeral Home & Crematory website: www.kinglynk.com.