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Rooney Profiles - Helen Rooney Felling

Helen Rooney Felling

Helen Rooney was born September 1, 1904 on the Minnesota prairie farm that her pioneer father Michael Rooney homesteaded in 1865. She was the youngest of four children. She said she arrived a few hours before the family doctor, whose son Sinclair Lewis later wrote the novel Main Street, based on a nearby town. Helen attended St. Benedict's College in St. Cloud, St. Catherine's College in St. Paul, and Teacher's College in Glenwood. She taught in rural one room school houses until her marriage to Edward Felling in 1936. Despite the stereotype of rural one room school houses being red, she said that in her day they were all white.

After their marriage Helen and Edward moved to Detroit, Michigan where they raised eight children. Helen was very outgoing and genuinely enjoyed people. She made people welcome and was quick to offer a compliment. She was very giving of her time and help was sought out by those in need. She was active in church activities at St. Dominic's Parish. During World War II she took a job to help with the war effort. Later she worked for the post office and in the 1960's she helped spearhead President Johnson's War on Poverty Program in Detroit as a senior counselor until she retired at age 70.

In 1974 Helen and her husband moved to Woodacre, CA. Edward died a year later. Helen continued to live in California but spent most of her summers at the family homestead in Minnesota enjoying time with the relatives, renewing childhood friendships, and visiting with retirees she once had as students. Helen loved to travel and over the years made many trips across the country, as well as to Alaska, Canada, Ireland, Spain and other Central European countries. Even in advanced age, the prospect of a trip gave her renewed energy. She lived in her own home until she was 91, after which she lived with her daughter Geraldine and son-in-law Joseph Walsh in Lagunitas. Helen was a faithful member of St. Cecilia's Parish in Lagunitas, and had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is not unnoticed that she passed away on the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, September 8, 1997.

Helen took great pride in her Irish heritage and treasured time spent researching her family tree. She even designed a picture patchwork quilt depicting her family's emigration from Ireland, their early life in Canada, their pioneer days in Minnesota, and special memories from her own life.

Helen had eight children, 18 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren at the time of her death. Her children are sons Edwin James and Michael of Marathon, FL, son Bernard of Lagunitas, CA, daughter Mary Margaret Bommarito of Grosse Point, MI, son Daniel of Bloomfield Hills, MI, son Jerry of Lagunitas, CA, daughter Geraldine Walsh of Lagunitas, CA, and son John of Woodacre, CA. Helen's parents are Michael and Margaret Rooney, her brothers Francis and Ambrose, and her sister Mary Majerus.