her Life

The Bitter End

If Helene had had her wish, she and my father would have danced into extended old age with grace, a love of life, and a great sense of adventure. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s stole that dream from her and from all of those who loved her. Her family knows that she was taken far too soon, and much earlier than her death date conveys.

Loved by many, Helene is survived by four of her children: Steve (Julia) of Athens, GA; Randy (Trixie) of Waynesville, MO; Angel Antoni (Chris) of Bali, PA; Patty (Mark Ellis) of Columbia, MO; and her eight grandchildren: Jenny (Laura), Ian, Brian, Eric, Syd Ellis, Simon Ellis, Sarah Antoni, and Jonathan Antoni.

She is preceded in death by her loving husband, Delbert (1923-2009); her eldest and beloved daughter, Kris (1949-2014), her cherished brothers, Hans and Peter Weyer, and an infant sister.

Our family wishes to thank the Staff of the Arbors at Bluff Creek Terrace for six years of undeniably great care of our mother.  

Life in Between

Although there may have been benefits to becoming a War Bride, the difficulties likely outnumbered them. Helene gave birth to her first child, Kris, in 1949 while Delbert was still stationed in Germany. She was happy to have her mother, father, and siblings nearby to enjoy the life of her newborn daughter. Within two years, though, Helene and Delbert were transferred to Sheboygan, Wisconsin where their son, Steve, was born. Life was challenging for Helene. She found herself in an unfamiliar country and quickly on her own as Delbert was deployed to Korea. As with any challenge Helene faced, she faced it head-on and with grace. She perfected her English and immediately found employment as a bookkeeper for a car dealership in the area.

The Yocum family grew over time as Delbert, on his career military path, was deployed to Korea, Germany, Beirut and Vietnam. Helene and the children followed Delbert whenever possible, but like many military spouses, she was left virtually alone to raise their five children. And my, what a job she did! Her children have often wondered, with awe, just how she managed to work outside the home, raise five healthy children, move from place to place, keep the house spotless, dishes and laundry always done, and a full meal on the table by 6:00 every evening.

And in the midst of all this, it’s not a stretch to say that Helene saved the lives of each of her children at least once! From turning baby Steve upside down as he choked on a coin, to insisting that the doctors in the military hospital take Randy’s illness more seriously than they were - and only moments before his appendix burst - to jumping into a moving car to pull the emergency brake as three of her children were in a runaway car heading downhill, to somehow managing to drive while holding tightly to an unbuckled Patty when the car door flung open while rounding a very sharp curve.

She was amazing alright, and what fun! After Delbert retired from the military in 1968 and the family settled into their first home in the Ft. Leonard Wood area, there was never a German Fasching or New Year’s Eve that went uncelebrated in the Yocum house! She was a social butterfly and we all considered her the Hostess with the Mostest. The house was decorated for every holiday and season; Jazz, Polka and other German music was often heard playing, and she could always be found humming and moving in time while cooking, baking, and tending to her house.

Helene and Delbert’s dream from the moment they settled was to build their own home. It took many years, but they did, almost exclusively - and quite literally - build their own home. Together, with family input, they planned and designed the house. With the help of Randy and Steve, the very skillful Army Engineer Delbert tore down barracks on the Fort to collect wood for framing. They dug the basement, poured the concrete, and built the house. Helene was always close by with food, cake, coffee, lemonade, and suggestions. It was definitely a full family effort. During this time, Helene was also busy running an income tax and bookkeeping office which she owned in Dixon. We all knew one of her greatest joys was being called the “tax lady” by the children she passed while walking through town.

There is no doubt Helene and Delbert worked hard for everything they owned and they lived life to its fullest. As time passed and their children started lives and families of their own, Helene and Delbert took the opportunity to travel and have fun. Patty remembers a particular New Year’s Eve when she called her parents (early, so she could go to bed) to wish them a Happy New Year. To her amazement, her 70+ year old parents were just on their way out to go dancing! We think Delbert would agree, Helene definitely kept life fun, and he was known for saying that she always made him look good. Along with the countless excursions they made every year to see family and friends, they most looked forward to attending Delbert’s 371st Engineer Battalion Reunion. Of their many accomplishments in life, Delbert’s status as Veteran, and Helene’s as wife of a Veteran, stands as their proudest.

The Story Begins

Helene - known as Leni to her family and friends in Germany and Oma to her loving family in the US - was the first of four children born to Johann and Christina (Bernards) Weyer in 1926 in Rodenkirchen, Germany. Her life was filled with adventure both exciting and tragic. She grew up in Nazi Germany and lost friends and family to the horrors of war. After the war while out with some girlfriends, Helene noticed a very handsome, somewhat tipsy, American soldier who was in a bind. The soldier had ordered a number of drinks for the women who surrounded him at his table. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough money to cover the tab. As Helene left the gasthaus, she laughed her beautiful laugh and nonchalantly paid this poor soldier’s tab. This American soldier's name was Delbert Yocum, and his pursuit of Helene began that night.

Helene was a busy and independent woman, and at the time was in a relationship with a count. Delbert, a country boy from Illinois, was not deterred. The count, however, was not impressed and one evening confronted the two of them. He told Helene she must make a choice. Either she chooses him, the man who would take her all around the world and could offer her all the finest things in life, or she chooses the American soldier from Illinois. At this moment, Delbert fumbled for words and admitted he didn't have much to offer her, and that he wasn't even sure he loved her. But then, by some saving grace, he said the words that have gone down in Yocum family history, "I know I love my mother."

And with that, the life and love story of Helene and Delbert truly began! As with any love story, there were good times and bad, but they remained committed to each other for over 60 years. They successfully raised five children and welcomed eight grandchildren during their life together. My mother always said that the true character of a man can be seen in the way he treats his mother. She never doubted her choice.