Helmi Rachel Wiinikainen Viliesis passed away at her home in West Barnstable on March 3, 2018.
Helmi was born on the family dairy farm on Maple Street in West Barnstable in 1930, the youngest of twelve children of Rosa and Victor Wiinikainen. Helmi was the wife of Vitie George Viliesis, who predeceased her in 2009. She is also predeceased by all eleven siblings: her brothers Victor, Andrew, David, Emel, Albert and John and sisters Katherine Moisio, Aina Sullivan, Olga Aittaniemi, Alma Lambert and Vilma Lambert.
For immediate family, Helmi leaves her son John, his wife Stephanie and their children Emma and Peter. She also leaves her daughter Ruth and her husband Douglas Raponi, and Alice, her husband Nadim Jamal and their children Alexander and Christian.
Helmi attended Barnstable High School, and graduated from UMass Amherst in 1952 with a degree in Mathematics and Education. After graduation she worked as an Engineer at General Electric in Pittsfield, during a time when women engineers were hired as ‘assistants’. While Vitie was in the service they lived in El Paso, Texas and Anchorage, Alaska where she embarked on a lifelong career as a teacher, be it in or out of a classroom. Helmi and Vitie returned to Massachusetts, living in Williamsburg until retirement in West Barnstable. While living in Williamsburg she was involved in many local activities but found being the chair of the Hampshire Regional School Committee for six years a feather in her cap.
Helmi was a formidable woman – teacher, organizer, motivator, master weaver, friend and mother. She was passionately devoted first to her family and then her friends, Finnish heritage, First Lutheran Church and West Barnstable – not necessarily always in that order. Among her retirement activities she was a member of the Finnish American Society of Cape Cod, a supporter of the Weldon Memorial Library, a docent at Heritage Plantation, and general motivator and conscience of many committees centered around First Lutheran Church. She considered herself blessed to live on Maple Street surrounded by many surrogate ‘sons and daughters’ from the neighborhood as well as many, many nieces, nephews and ‘grands’ on the Cape and beyond.
A memorial service will be held at First Lutheran Church, 1663 Main Street, Route 6A in West Barnstable at 11 am on Saturday March 10th followed by a reception in the church hall. A family graveside service will be held prior to the memorial service at Crocker Park Cemetery on Church Street in West Barnstable.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the First Lutheran Church, 1663 Main Street, West Barnstable MA 02668.