Longtime resident Helen M. Yenko died peacefully in her sleep Oct. 23 at her home in Jackson where she lived for 30 years. She was 89.
Her family submitted the following.
Helen was born July 5, 1930, in Burns, Oregon, to Jack and Helen Krmpotich. She was raised in Winton, a coal mining camp started by the Union Pacific Coal Company north of Rock Springs. Although there were hardships growing up during the Depression, Helen spoke lovingly about the close-knit community. She would also proudly declare that she was a “coal miner’s daughter.”
Helen attended high school in Reliance, graduating in 1948. She was the salutatorian of her class and, not surprisingly, a cheerleader. After high school and just barely over 18 years old, she bravely made her way to Denver and attended Loretto Heights College. Luckily, she had two friends from Rock Springs who became her roommates.
All three had surnames that were not easy to pronounce, and the girls would laugh at all the ways the instructors flubbed their names. After one year Helen transferred to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, as her passion was to become a teacher. She graduated in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
Following graduation, Helen for taught one year in Santa Maria, California. She returned home to Rock Springs, where her parents resided, intending to stay only long enough to repay them for college. It was there she met and later married John Yenko. They had two children, son Steve and daughter Annette. They later divorced.
Helen was employed by Sweetwater County School District No. 1 in Rock Springs, where she taught elementary classes while spending the majority of years teaching remedial reading under the Title 1 program. She took early retirement in 1989 after 24 years with the district. She received an outstanding teacher award and was congratulated by U.S. Sen. Alan K. Simpson.
In the summer of 1989, Helen moved to Jackson. She had a variety of retail jobs over the years with Hide Out Leather, VandeWater’s, Caswell Gallery, Baggit and Thoenig’s Fine Jewelry.
Most might remember seeing Helen walking around Town Square dressed to the hilt — she absolutely loved clothes. Tourists would stop and ask to take her photograph. That would delight her, but she never understood what all the fuss was about.
Helen retired for good in 2012 at the age of 82. Had she had it her way, she would have still been working. Alas, declining health kept her mostly at home under the care of her daughter.
Helen’s loves included children, animals, clothing, jewelry, baking, the Fourth of July, dancing and her friends and family. Her home was filled with all things bucking bronco, as she so loved Wyoming. Helen would bake extraordinary pastries for her family and friends to enjoy, even though she was unable to eat any of them. Every Sunday she would drive herself out to the Stagecoach Bar for “church” and dance up a storm. She once danced on the bar with George Green.
Everyone who met Helen fell in love with her. Kindness oozed from her being, and she loved everyone in return. The term “rest in peace” does not apply to Helen, as she is most likely dancin’ and kickin’ up her heels. Helen will be greatly missed on this earth. May she be remembered for her sparklin’ heart and beautiful smile.
Helen is survived by her son, Steve Yenko (Jayne), of Cora; daughter, Annette Despain, of Jackson; nephews John (Jana) Krmpotich and Matt (Michelle) Krmpotich, of Rock Springs; Rich (Debbie) Krmpotich and Bob Krmpotich, of Green River; Phillip (Jamie) Krmpotich, of Casper; Michael Zigich of Chicago; nieces Sherry (Mickey) Byrne, of Littleton, Colorado; Julie Jacobson, of Oklahoma City; cousin Judy (Jim) Salz, of Brentwood, California; and several grand- and great-grandnieces and nephews.
Helen was preceded in death by her parents, aunts and uncles, brothers Bob Zigich and Jack Krmpotich, sister Frances Ashmore, nephew Mark Zigich and many close friends.
Cremation has taken place. A celebration of Helen’s life will be held next spring.
Condolences may be sent to Annette Despain, P.O. Box 9333, Jackson, WY 83002.
The family respectfully asks that donations be sent in Helen’s name to the Senior Center of Jackson Hole, Caregiver Respite Home Care, P.O. Box 4677, Jackson, WY 83001.