Helen Krinke surely won the homebody award if one was given for a long stay in her home. Thanks to excellent collaborative efforts between Methow At Home, The Lookout Coalition, and our local medical miracle workers, not to mention the selfless compassion of her sister’s daughter, Nita Mahaffey and the kindness and generosity of local home care professionals, Helen was able live her final days comfortably in the home she and her husband, Bill, built after the place that they were planning to be their last near Libby Creek washed down the river in the 1948 flood.
Helen came to the valley in 1916 with her older sister and parents when they relocated from a ranch on 5 Mile Creek near Princeton, British Columbia. The Watson Ranch (more recently the Tice Ranch, and now known as Rockchuck Ranch) was a large cattle operation that her grandfather, James Watson, had consolidated from five smaller properties on lower Beaver Creek, and was a logical place for the young family to land and work cooperatively as an extended ranch family during challenging early valley days. Helen’s Grandpa, Mason Thurlow, was the neighboring rancher and a kind, generous supporter of the Watson family. Ethalbert and Nora Watson had one more daughter, Feril, three years later to complete the family.
Helen told lots of stories about traveling to Beaver Creek school and the fact that she and her sister Gladys were the only two students who never were tardy or absent in their 8 years of attendance there. She and Gladys milked cows morning and evening and her dad one time became impatient with their playing around, squirting the cats and each other, so he sat down on the milking stool, and vigorously started milking. The cow wasn’t happy with his rough hands and rushed efforts and by the time he had a full pail, she was so fidgety that she up and stepped right in the pail. Helen delighted in telling that story so much, and was so tickled by it that she always laughed and laughed.
The family got their own ranch and moved to upper Beaver Creek in 1926 and Helen had to travel to school in Twisp (the current Community Center building). Instead of horseback being the most reasonable school transportation, her dad’s Model T was a better option - and at age 13 she started driving herself and several neighbor kids (Stokes, Filers, Howlands) to school with a pillow under her and a pillow behind her to reach the steering wheel and clutch.
After high school, neighbor Bill Krinke and Helen were married in October 1936 and he worked a variety of timber harvest and heavy construction jobs (Grand Coulee Dam) while she supported him and they adventured to remote corners of the county, including a memorable weekend trek to the Azurite Mine and another to the Sanpoil country. Bill was working at the Wagner Mill in 1968 when he became ill and passed away suddenly. At that point Helen needed to invent a way to support herself - so she got a typewriter and advertised that she could type handwritten manuscripts for various writers - something she continued until the late 1990s. She
claimed she was not a fast typewriter, but was accurate and dependable. She was very well read and was proud of the collection of National Geographic Magazines - noting she had retained every issue 1938 to 2022 and had read them all, many of them more than once.
She was still seen around Twisp driving her 1972 Jeep Wagoneer in 2005 and she continued washing all her clothes in the Maytag ringer washer and hanging them on the line as long as she was able. She split and stacked her own firewood and started the wood cookstove every morning to heat up water for her morning coffee. She had very strong arms and hands!
The last few years she lost more and more of her hearing and the sight in her good eye got more clouded so she didn’t really see much either, but her playful spirit never failed her and her strong independent attitude endured. She declared many times she wanted to be in the home she built until she died. On September 16, 2022 she went to sleep in her own bed in that home for the last time.
Helen’s story as written by her dear friend, Kent Woodruff