Helen Elaine Shanks peacefully joined her husband Jim in heaven on Saturday, December 18, 2021, after a long-fought battle with Alzheimer’s. at the age of 90.
Born in Washougal, WA on November 19, 1931 to Max Phillip and Blanche V. (Chute) Couture, Helen was the youngest of twelve children. Due to trying family circumstances, Helen was placed under foster care and relocated to Seattle, WA in her early teens. In her senior year at Ballard High School, Helen met the love of her life, James (Jim) Louis Shanks. Immediately following graduation in 1950, they married and began a life journey together that spanned 71 years.
Helen, husband Jim and family moved to California in January 1960 and lived in the Concord and Antioch area for 33 years. In 1993 she settled with Jim in Elk Grove, CA to enjoy retired life.
Her husband and five children were always the focal point of her life. Her home was a gathering place for welcoming countless relatives and friends. Helen was a consummate homemaker with mechanical skills that came naturally. She enjoyed figuring out how to assemble toys or furniture, replace a faucet or install a sprinkler system. After being a stay-at-home mom for most of her adult life, Helen went to work as a bookkeeper/clerical support for a dental office.
She established many family traditions, like filling the “good deeds crib” with straw during Advent, that her grandchildren are passing down to her great grandchildren.
Helen was a consummate homemaker. She taught all of her children the basics for maintaining a home. She also impressed upon her children the importance of knowing how to create a budget and balance a checking account. Her mechanical skills came naturally and she enjoyed figuring out how to assemble a toy or furniture, replace a faucet or install a sprinkler system. After being a stay-at-home mom for most of her adult life, Helen went to work as a bookkeeper/clerical support for a dental office.
Throughout her life, especially in her young years, she experienced some very difficult and emotional situations that made her a realist. Helen taught her children the importance of family, love, being kind, compassionate and empathic towards others; and being polite, courteous and respectful at all times. Good manners were to be demonstrated at all times. It was never okay to tell anyone to Shut Up. She also taught her children to be independent and to persevere; actions decisions have consequences and that one must take responsibility for their choices and to understand that life can be hard, sometimes cruel and often not fair. She would say that if you think you are too tired to keep going, keep putting one foot in front of the other. You just might surprise yourself on how strong you can be. She called it tough love.
In retirement she enjoyed traveling with Jim to the Holy Land, Italy, and taking several cross-country road trips. She was an avid bowler and participated in league play until her early 80’s. She was an active member of Elk Grove Newcomers Club and hosted many bunko and pinochle tournaments. She enjoyed gardening and especially liked plantings that attracted her beloved butterflies and hummingbirds. In addition, she was an accomplished seamstress, making beautiful prom dresses and outfits for family and friends. Helen was particularly passionate about quilting and a dedicated quilting club member. She created beautiful quilts and embroidery work that will be cherished for years to come.
Helen is survived by her five children: Kathleen Kirklin (spouse Patrick), JayMarie Garcia (spouse Ron), Carolynn Jennings, Tammy Sypriano (spouse Rick), and James L. Shanks jr. (spouse Sheri). Her nine grandchildren: Veronica (Ty) Ruff, Kurtis Mathews, Jenni (Jeray) Perez, Tara Sypriano, Jacob Shanks, MacKenzie (Kurt) Harris, Casey Garcia, Hanna (Rick) Hill and Jared (Emilee) Shanks. Her eleven great-grandchildren: Jerea, Madysen, Seth, Renee, Kylee, Carter, Elijah, Emilia, Jameson, Mia and Aksel. Her one great-great grandchild: Landon.
Helen was a survivor, a fighter for her family and a trusted friend to many. Throughout the ups and downs of her life she never lost her loving heart. Her dry, sometimes sarcastic, sense of humor, her laughter, the sparkle in her eyes, her smile and hugs will be missed.
Mom, Grammy your love for us will live on through our memories.
A private Celebration of Life will take place in July 2022. Memories and condolences can be shared at https://www.placervillefuneralandcremation.com/obituary/HelenShanks.
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