Upon entering the quiet northwest Ohio village of Stryker and pulling into the driveway at 204 West Lynn St, one immediately senses an atmosphere of friendliness. And after knocking on the door and being welcomed by the big smile of Helen Bell all of that is confirmed immediately. As Helen introduces her husband Kenneth and you receive his strong handshake and smile you can sense the many years that these two special folks have supported and helped each other.
The room that we initially gathered in was a cozy den with a bright fire burning in the fireplace surrounded by clay crocks.
What a special privilege to meet them both.
Kenneth was born on September 1, 1936 and Helen was born on May 6, 1936. They have lived all their lives in this geographical area. Both lived on farms during their formative years, Kenneth north of Cooney on route 49 and Helen west of Montpelier.
“Back in those days,” Kenneth says, “they didn’t have indoor plumbing, water, electricity or heat. It was a different era for growing up as a child, but it definitely was a good one, even without the modern conveniences of today.”
Kenneth went to Cooney to attend grade school and both Kenneth and Helen attended Edon Northwest High School. Helen says she can’t point out any individual teacher that had an impact on her life, as they all influenced her in different ways.
They actually got to know each other on a friendlier basis at the skating rink at Clear Lake Indiana during a class party in 1950. They have now been happily married for 61 years. This marriage has produced 6 children, 16 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.
Helen spent most of these years at home raising the children and some time at Metal Forge while Kenneth worked at the Spangler Candy Company for 41 years.
Helen says that the thing that made their marriage strong was their children and the love that they all shared with one another. One thing she would advise folks on, is to “Enjoy your children and all other family members”.
Community involvements that keep Helen busy are the United Methodist Church, The Stryker Area Heritage Council of which she is a trustee and secretary, The Heritage Homemakers where she serves as president and she is involved in most everything at The Stryker Senior Center.
Helen enjoys helping those in need, near and far. One of her favorite projects is for the “Church World Services” for which she sews ladies bags, which are then filled with donations to be distributed throughout the world.
Her priorities are Family, Church, and Community.
As one walks through the Bell residence, they see an overflowing of collections and items that are dear to their hearts. Many small artifacts, including donkeys and carts, birds, roosters, owls, artificial fruits, mason jars, cardinals and several large antique crocks are stored throughout the house and, of course, many pictures of the family. It is like being in a small museum, each item holding a special story in Helen and Kenneth’s lives.
Along with the hobby of all of these collections, Helen loves to sew and do gardening, especially flowers.
Their favorite music is country western and they used to enjoy traveling to northern Michigan around the Gaylord area and spending time at Chub Lake.
A couple of achievements that they have received are that Kenneth had an article written in “Ohio Magazine” and Helen, while in the 8th grade along with two of her classmates, was selected to participate in the Williams County Spelling Bee where she attained the second runner up status. She actually still has the certificate that she received for that honor and remembers the word that she miss-spelled… Avalanche.
Helen enjoys spending time sorting through pictures and putting them into albums, planting flowers and watering them and watching them grow. She likes to collect calendar towels, old doilies, table cloths and table covers. She also has a large collection of recipe books. She says she really doesn’t use them though since Kenneth does most of the cooking.
She loves warm weather so they can get out and plant as many plants around the house as they can.
The key to Kenneth and Helen’s lives is to keep busy daily. So many folks retire and do not do so and the Bell’s think that would be very boring.
They love being involved with their families, their neighborhood and their community. Their greatest desire is to serve others in any manner that they are capable of doing.
As one leaves the presence of this couple they sense a dignified love of life that shines through from top to bottom in both of these fine folks.
It was a pleasure to spend some time with them and an honor to share a portion of their lives with all of you.
John may be reached at