Those who knew Helen Keitel for a few years had the same impressions of her as those who had known her for decades.
"Any time there was something that needed to be done, she was there to do it," said Michael Keith, pastor at Eldon United Methodist Church, which Keitel had attended since 2008.
"She kept everything together, always," her daughter Teresa Nelson said.
Helen Keitel, a longtime Columbia resident, died Friday, Oct. 21, 2011, after a stroke. She was 72.
She was born Nov. 25, 1938, in Mokane to Olin Leslie and Edna Mae Autenrieth. She moved to Columbia, where her former husband worked in car sales.
Nelson said her mother took everyone else's problems upon herself and that growing up in Columbia with Ms. Keitel, a stay-at-home mother, was a perfect childhood for her and her two siblings.
"I wouldn't have changed a thing," Nelson said. "She was all about the kids."
When Nelson was a child, she said her mother had a very involved social life, but she always put her family first. Ms. Keitel was involved in the PTA and was a room mother for her children's elementary schools.
Still, she found time to garden, participate in the neighborhood association and cook elaborate meals for her family.
"The thing we teased her about the most was that she always overcooked for meals," Nelson said.
Ms. Keitel grew up on a farm and helped her father butcher chickens, cattle and hogs.
"My mother was never afraid to work," Nelson said.
She knew how to can food, and she sewed much of the family's clothing.
"Nothing was too much for her," said Bob Keilholz, who had been dating Ms. Keitel.
Keilholz met Ms. Keitel in Eldon at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post, where he often came to dance. After Ms. Keitel's children had all left home, she had moved to the shores of the Lake of the Ozarks, a favorite vacation spot for her family.
He said the first time he met Ms. Keitel, she was sitting at a table with a couple they both knew. The couple invited Keilholz to sit down with them.
Keilholz had been looking for a steady dance partner, and he ended up sharing a few dances with Ms. Keitel that evening, he said.
"I was looking for someone to dance with, and she fit the bill and won my heart," he said.
Last October, he began bringing Ms. Keitel with him to weekly meetings of Show Me Bootscooters, a country dance group in Jefferson City. She had no problem making friends there.
"She had a good sense of humor," said Hazel Dorge, a member of the dance group. "Just a really lovely person."
Ms. Keitel had also been active in the Miller County VFW Post #2442 and the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Eldon. She was a member of the Creekers Club, the Show Me Bootscooters and the Rocky Mount Patrol.
"She always made everyone feel welcome," Nelson said.
Ms. Keitel is survived by Bob Keilholz of Rocky Mount; her children, Vanessa Williams and her husband, Robert, of Hallsville, Teresa Nelson and her husband, Daniel, of Columbia, and Elmer Acton Jr. of Donna, Texas; her grandchildren, Jessica Bock, Bradley Nelson, Stacy Ripoll, Morgen Tune, William Tune, Jason Acton and Layla Acton; eight great-grandchildren; two brothers and three sisters.
Her parents, Olin Leslie and Edna Mae Autenrieth, died earlier.
Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Phillips Funeral Home, 5 S. Oak St. in Eldon. Services will be conducted by the Rev. Michael Keith at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Eldon United Methodist Church, 600 N. Oak St. Burial will follow at 2 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Park Cemetery, 1217 Business Loop 70 W.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Eldon United Methodist Church, 600 N. Oak St., Eldon, MO 65026, or to an alternate charity.
Condolences can be posted at phillipsfuneralhomeeldon.com.