Telling my family's stories
Helen Mae Ritenour was the daughter of Andrew Jackson and Minnie Mae Oberheim. And she had quite the life, lemme tell you.
She was born in October 23 1898 in Carroll County, Illinois, the third child in the family, behind Earl and Frances (Fanny). She lived with her parents until they divorced sometime after 1920.
Somehow, somewhere, she married a guy named George Serrurier on March 3, 1917 in Winnebago County, Illinois. She had a daughter named June born in 1917, and another daughter named Gail born in 1919. And that’s all I know about those girls. By 1920, the two girls and Helen are living with her parents and she is marked as ‘divorced.’
Helen was a real character, though. By January of 1921, she was getting married again – this time in Dubuque, Iowa. The man’s name was Walter Thurman Falls. He was about 10 years older than her, and was born in Indiana.
Around 1926, they moved to Parke County, Indiana, which was where Walter had been born – presumably, this was to stay with his family for awhile. Shortly after, they moved back to Illinois, but by 1930 they were living in Union, Jackson county, Iowa. Walter was working as a farm hand and paying $9 a month rent on a house there.
They proceeded to have 6 children together, but the details are very sketchy. Census records have been hard to find, and I only know a little bit. My Great Aunt remembers Helen and Walter and their kids. She says they lived in a sand pit outside of town, in a tent. They sold watermelons when they could, but otherwise depended on support from their relatives, including my Great Aunt’s family. As she explained, “Walter wasn’t ambitious.” The Falls group was close with her father Andrew Jackson (you knew he’d come back in here somewhere). They are prominently mentioned at his funeral, and he is buried with their family plot in the cemetery. I suspect that her relations to Minnie Mae, who remained a Pillar of the Community, with her immaculate house and staunch church attendance, may have been a bit more distant… Earl and Cora Ritenour must have thought something of her, because they named their daughter Helen Mae, although the girl died the same day she was born in 1934.
Walter died on October 30, 1976. I have no idea when Helen died or where she went. As I said – they’re not easy people to locate. Not exactly in the ‘Who’s Who’ books of Savanna, with all the pictures of the big fat guys with moustaches. I think I might have found them very amusing people to know, though…