Chapter 12 Helen's Death
Helen had been in good health during her early and middle years. She was very active and fast in her mode of
movement and work. She engaged in some strenuous activities in connection with the farm work, over and above what most normal women
would do. Her appendix had been removed when she was a teenager.
In the early 1970's, she was hospitalized for a gallbladder operation. During her life, she often complained of
not being able to stand for long periods of time. In fact, from the time she was about 40 onward, she did not always stand up in Church
when singing hymns as the rest of the Congregation did. She did suffer from arthritis from the time she was in her 60's. In June 1977,
at her sister Rosanna's funeral, she was unable to get into the Church, except with assistance.
From that time forward, she utilized a wheelchair much of the time. This included around the house. She could
walk for short distances aided by her crutch. This included attendance at Church where John parked close to the door and then she
struggled inside with the aid of her crutch. It also did not deter John and Helen from going on bus trips. They often would take the
wheelchair along and John would push her.
As mentioned previously, they did go to California by air for a week's visit with John's brother and family in
1979. Helen was also afflicted with diabetes during her later years and took medication daily for this problem. When Dr. Cadle retired,
she transferred to Dr. Elizabeth Wood in Gettysburg.
During the Spring and Summer of 1984, it was obvious to many who saw her that Helen was not well. When a
doctor's visit was suggested by others, she said it wasn't necessary and John made light of it.
On the evening of August 1, 1984, Helen remarked to John that she was feeling better than she had in a while.
During the night, she was stricken and John asked her what was the trouble. She told him to just lie down and go to sleep and that
everything would be all right. She died at 2:15 a.m. from heart failure.
The casket selected was made of oak. This was done to symbolize the large oak trees that had stood around
Helen's home on the hill where she had lived during her youth and the rancher next door where she had spent her last years. The funeral
services were conducted by the Skiles Funeral Home in Emmitsburg. The visitation period for family and friends was held on the evening
of August 3. Funeral services were conducted on August 4 from Toms Creek United Methodist Church. The services were conducted by Rev.
James Farmer, assisted by Rev. Dr. John B. Howes and Rev. Lloyd E. Fuss. The internment was in the Emmitsburg Memorial Gardens.
Afterwards, the family and friends returned to the social room at the Church. In October of the same year, John
Jr. and Sarah took John to Gettysburg to Codori Memorials for the purpose of selecting a tombstone. John just could not reach any
decision but told them it didn't matter. It finally came out that he thought it was too soon after Helen's death to be erecting a
The next May, they went back again. A stone was selected and installed, bearing the names and dates for both
John and Helen.
Chapter 13; John's Final Chapter in Life
John never did really fully adjust to Helen's death. He repeated on a very regular basis that he could not
understand why she had died first, especially since he was 5½ years older than she was.
Helen's niece, Hazel Liller, stayed for almost two weeks after Helen's death. She did some sorting of clothes
and other items of Helen's and helped to identify where some of the items from the Ohler side of the family had originated.
On Labor Day of the same year, John and Sarah went over and the remainder of Helen's things were disposed of.
She had been a great saver and thus many of the old things were so outdated that they were just burned. John then continued to travel
his routine life. He did drive to the Senior Citizens every noon for his dinner. He continued to do visiting of others with relatives
and friends, but he was very lonely for his "little girl".
Prior to Helen's death, John had a growth on his nose that was a skin cancer. He had it treated by a Gettysburg
doctor on two occasions. Soon after Helen's death, it had been looked at again and deemed that it would require surgery of some kind. In
January 1985, he went to Dr. Richard Dabb, a skin cancer specialist in York. He did arrange for outpatient surgery at the York Hospital
on January 21, 1985.
The cancerous skin was removed from the nose. Then Dr. Dabb grafted skin from the back of John's right ear over
the nose. The operation was successful for a time. After ab t a year, the difficulty on the nose returned. Dr. Dabb said that the
removal would have to go deeper. On May 21, 1986, Dr, John Stoner performed an operation to remove all of the cancerous material.
Several millimeters of skin were removed. Then it was checked to see if the cancerous tissue still remained. This was repeated four
times until finally everything was satisfactory.
Then John went immediately to the York Hospital were Dr. Dabb again performed a skin graft. This time, the skin
from behind the left ear was used. This second operation was successful and there was no more indication of the skin cancer as long as
Between the two nose operations, he started to show signs of deterioration of condition in August 1985. He was
obviously not eating very well. He cut down on his trips to Senior Citizens. He appeared listless and uninterested. People even
mentioned that he hardly talked about Helen anymore. Many thought that he had just given up. Throughout all of this, he refused to go to
In fact, he had no regular physician and had not really been to a doctor or seen by a doctor, except in the case
of the several accidents since childhood and Dr. Dabb earlier in the year for the skin cancer problem. I had continually urged him to go
to the doctor.
I had made arrangements with Dr. Daniel Carroll in Emmitsburg to bring him in and I had told John. He refused to
go. Understanding his weakening position, I did start to call him every day. Finally on September 30, 1985, John admitted he was feeling
bad and would go to a doctor. So I took him the next morning. Dr. Carroll diagnosed some urinary problem. He sent us the next day to the
Gettysburg Hospital for tests. The tests came back two days later. Dr. Carroll said that there were signs of serious kidney and urinary
difficulties. He wanted John to see a specialist in Gettysburg on this as soon as possible. John was unable to stay alone at this point.
On October 7, we went to Dr. Tuliszewski in Gettysburg. At this point, John was so weak that Wayne Creager accompanied because John
literally had to be carried into the office. Dr. Tuliszewski immediately diagnosed the problem as a prostrate cancer. However, the
urinary tract had been blocked for some time and kidneys were not working satisfactorily.
It was important to react to that problem first. The doctor said that there was no more than a 50% chance that the problems could be treated.
John was taken immediately to the Gettysburg Hospital and placed under the care of Dr. Krablin. John was in the hospital for ten days until the kidneys were functioning properly and then sent home.
John wanted to take care of himself. John Jr. made arrangements for Wayne and Rosella Creager (his neice) to come every day to assist him. The intention was to help him to get up in the morning and see that he got to bed at night. John rebelled against
this. After ten days, he wrote a letter to Rosella, virtually discharging her.
After a period of recovery at home, John reentered the hospital on November 7. Dr. Tuliszewski performed a prostrate operation. John was in the hospital for 7 days. John Jr. attempted, after both hospital stays, to have him go to a nursing home or some
facility rather than directly home. John would not consider this. The hospital authorities and doctors said that his mind was sound and there was no way they could require or direct that he go to a nursing home, even though that would have been best for him.
John's recovery from the prostrate operation was remarkable according to Dr. Tuliszewski. Within a month he was going regularly to Senior Citizens and to Toms Creek Church with Dr. John Howes.
With these illnesses, John Jr. instituted the procedure of telephoning to John every morning between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. to see that he was all right. He continued this until John went to the nursing home in October 1988.
John did bounce back rather rapidly after all of his operations. However, he never went into the grocery store after his 1985 operation. John Jr. purchased all of his groceries every week. John's daughter-in-law, Sarah, did all of his laundry.
Visitors were always welcomed. He did enjoy talking to anyone who would come by. While Helen lived, she had carried the conversation. John just had to listen. Now he had many interesting things to tell, but did often repeat himself. He continued
to be an excellent piano player.
On February 8, 1987, John observed his 90th birthday. He went with Dr. Howes to Toms Creek Church that morning.
He stood up and said that he was happy and proud to be 90 and he did talk briefly to the congregation.
In the afternoon, a birthday open house was held in the social room of the Toms Creek Church. Bonnie Fuss, his
grand-niece took care of the arrangements. She had made a large display of pictures centered on John's life and she also prepared the
refreshments. Over 100 of John's relatives and friends attended. John seemed to appreciate the gesture very much. It had been kept as a
surprise for John, but afterwards he said he had been expecting something to occur.
John in this period developed a great feeling of independence. He wanted things his own way. Some might say that
he became stubborn. One has to wonder if he would have been a different person earlier if it had not been for Helen's dominant
influence. Deterioration continued to occur. By the end of 1987, John had dis- continued attending Senior Citizens. He was much less
mobile. He got around his house by literally holding onto the walls and furniture. Vernon and Bea Keilholtz regularly brought the mail
in for him. However, he would travel out in his automobile to get it whenever they did not arrive with it right after the mail was
John Jr. had continually tried to get more help for him. A nursing home was suggested regularly but rejected
very directly. Help coming into the home was proposed. He had rejected assistance from relatives. However, there were those who did
bring him meals and leave food in the refrigerator for him. In May 1988, John Jr. had made arrangements for Mrs. Causie Keilholtz to
come several days a week to do cleaning and cook a meal and do household chores. She came to meet with John and his son, who explained
what Mrs. Keilholtz would do. John was violently opposed to it and would have nothing whatsoever to do with it.
During all of this period, John's mind remained firm. He did remember many happenings from his younger days. He
would forget things that had happened just recently. However, he had a good grip on his business matters. He received dividend and
interest checks. He could remember the details of when he had acquired the stocks or bonds involved.
John Jr. would take his checks to the night drop of the bank every weekend, but John was fully capable of adding
the deposits. His mind was very clear and accurate. In early September 1988, a neighbor lady indicated that John had almost caused a bad
accident. He had gone for his mail in the car. Then he went down the road to turn around. He backed out in front of an approaching car.
When confronted with this, John at first denied and then admitted that he had been wrong. John Jr. then told him he could not drive
anymore, except in his own driveway. John was humble and agreed to this edict. Then later he became belligerent and said he was going to
With this, John Jr. took the car keys, denying use of the car. Deterioration continued. By the late summer, John
and Sarah had decided that he could not spend another winter in his house alone. His brother Robert was coming in early October.
Therefore, arrangements had been made a month in advance for John to go to the Hanover Hall Nursing Center in Hanover on October 17,
1988, assuming a bed was available.
On the appointed day, John Jr., with help from Robert Fuss and Wayne Creager, took him from his home to Hanover
Hall Nursing Home. He had reached the point where he could hardly walk and was barely able to move from the car to the inside of the
John was unhappy in the nursing home. During the first three days, he was belligerent to John Jr. and requested
and demanded that he be taken home. Thereafter, he changed and became reasonable, especially when he had a more suitable roommate. He
even played the piano for the group on several occasions.
John's condition continued to deteriorate. He had quite a few visitors during his stay there. On November 10,
1988, Mr. & Mrs. Turney were there and spent an hour or so with him. He just slept most of the time. I had visited him twice that day. I
had purposely avoided going in when he would be up to eat a meal because he always just asked me to put him back into bed. My latest
visit was at 4:00 p.m.
By this time, I think John had made his peace with the world and was ready to go to his Lord. We talked about
some things involving his earlier days, the farm, Helen and he had a clear understanding of them. At the same time, he seemed to think
he was back in his home at Emmitsburg.
Death from heart failure came suddenly while he was finishing his meal at 6:30 p.m. on November 10, 1988. The
Skiles Funeral Home took care of all the arrangements. The sons agreed to use an identical type casket as for Helen. The viewing was
held on the evening of November 12. The funeral service was held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 13. The clergyman in charge was Rev.
James Farmer with Rev. Lloyd E. Fuss, his nephew, and Rev. Dr. John B. Howes, his good friend, assisting.
Internment was beside Helen in the Emmitsburg Memorial Gardens.
previously posted chapters of the life and times of John and Helen Fuss