Helen Jean Wimberly, 79

Helen Jean (Kiekhaefer) Wimberly was born in Milwaukee Nov. 8, 1933 to Carl and Freda Kiekhaefer. Carl was the inventor and developer of Mercury Outboard Engines. Helen grew up in Cedarburg, where she started elementary school and later attended Cedarburg High School between 1948 and 1952. She was an energetic student and popular with her classmates, participating in many events with the Cedarburg High School Band, the Drum and the Bugle Corps, the Melletone singers and chorus. She was also a cheerleader and was prom queen in her junior year.

After high school she left Wisconsin for Florida to ski in the Aqua Maids troupe at Cypress Gardens and many other ski shows. She participated in movies such as “Easy to Love” with Esther Williams and in many TV programs such as “To Tell the Truth.”

She attended the University of Florida from 1952 to 1956 where she majored in commercial art with a degree of fine arts. Later she attended the University Medical School, where she trained as a registered nurse in 1967. Helen was very active at the university, being a football cheerleader and was Miss University of Florida in 1953. She settled in Gainesville and engaged in painting, exhibiting many of her paintings in Sarasota and Gainesville. Helen married her football hero and later adopted a child, Derek, who grew up in Florida.

Later Helen and Derek moved up to Bedford, Va., where she joined a close-knit community, Legacy Outreach, where she could better express her creativity as well as providing a secure family-like setting for Derek. She became interested in the environment and adopted many animals as pets. She developed her talent as a painter and taught art from 1977 until she went back to work as a nurse in 1982. She worked as a nurse at Lynchburg General Hospital and later at Bedford Memorial Hospital, a joint venture between Carilion Clinic and Centra. In 2001 she became a full-time caretaker for her mother, Freda, who had suffered a stroke and was paralyzed on one side, until she passed away in 2005. During that time Helen developed a signature garden and became a landscapist, but in 2004 she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Nevertheless, she continued to paint and to take care of her plants and pets: two ragdoll cats, 13 canaries, a gerbil, a chinchilla and her outdoor cats.

On Aug. 26, 2012 she lost her battle with the cancer. She is survived by her son, Derek, who was living with her in Bedford, her sister Anita Kiekhaefer and brother Fred and sister-in-law Carol Kiekhaefer. Helen will always be remembered for her sweet personality, her wonderful smile and as a sensitive, loving and generous person who loved music, nature and animals, especially her pets.

A memorial service will be held Thursday Aug. 22 at 10 a.m. at Concordia University Wisconsin Chapel in Mequon. In lieu of flowers please consider giving donations to animal charities or your favorite charity. For additional information, please contact Dr. Kenneth Oberheu at (704) 604-8271.