Martha Alice (Stuart) Helligso
January 30, 1919 – October 26, 2020
Martha Stuart Helligso, 101, passed away Monday evening October 26, 2020 at the family home that she and her husband moved into just after World War II (built by Art’s father in 1924). Born January 30, 1919 in Harlan, Iowa, Mart lived most of her days in Omaha, starting her undergraduate degree at Omaha U in 1937, where she met Arthur Helligso playing ping pong on campus. Together they won the mixed doubles ping pong tournament and began a lifelong partnership that lasted almost 70 years when Art passed away in 2009!
Mart was a lifelong learner, continuing to grow her memorization skills even in her final months with memorizing presidents, US capitals, South American and African countries this year. Over her 101 years, she believed strongly in continuing to learn new things and “to keep the brain muscles from getting flabby”. Even though she put her undergraduate degree on hold when her father passed away in 1940 so that she could work to help the family, she was faithful to return to her formal education after getting married to Arthur Helligso in 1941 and raising their two children (Ruth and Tom). She returned to UNO in the late 50’s where she earned a Bachelor of General Studies with a major in business in 1962. She was hired as a secretary by the University that year and continued her education to earn a Master of Arts Degree with a major in college business management in 1971. She was promoted to administrative assistant in the UNO Graduate College Office and worked there until she retired. At one time, she was 1 of 43 Nebraskans with the rating of Certified Professional Secretary and she received the Regional Secretary of the Year Award.
Earning her Masters Degree enabled Martha to join the Phi Delta Gamma Sorority for higher education with the goal of promoting professional ideals and offering social activities to women graduate students. She was an active member of the organization for over 50 years building lifelong friendships and participating in meetings, lunches and fundraising events for scholarships.
Martha believed strongly in “total development as a person” and to keep exercising brain and body no matter your circumstances. Over her lifetime, she faithfully did her exercises in varying forms—golfing, hiking, swimming, yoga, walking to work, even walking around the living room with a walker or practicing balancing exercises at the table. But she is best known for her line dancing! In her 70’s Mart joined a community line dancing group that rehearsed weekly and then performed at various venues including retirement communities and even a dance recital at the Joslyn! She was often one of the oldest people in the room, dancing her heart out to country favorites until she had to give it up at the age of 96. But she continued to maintain the strong friendships and social interactions, even having her troop perform at her 100th Birthday party!
Mart was active and involved in her community. She had a strong faith and was a member of Central Presbyterian/First Presbyterian Church for almost 70 years. She has served in many leadership capacities in multiple organizations throughout her life.
A passionate interest of Martha’s, that is still benefitting her family today, was genealogy and studying family lines. Without the use of the internet, she was able to research and publish 11 genealogy books doing the work the “hard way”, by phone calls, letters, library visits, travels, cemetery visits and correspondence. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and Magna Carta Dames, tracing back family lines to pre-colonial days, even back to an ancestor signing the Magna Carta in 1215!
Martha did many amazing things in life, but her favorite part was her family and her friends. She rarely missed a sporting event or dance recital or play if her loved ones were in it. She never passed up a game of scrabble or cards, and luck was often on her side. Her social events were legendary and everyone was always welcomed to her beautifully decorated table. She was the hostess with the mostess and the original Martha Stuart! She loved entertaining and making gourmet meals, holding babies and playing patty cake, giving tight hugs and love you love you love you’s. She lived a full life of generosity, vibrance, perseverance and love. She was smart, spunky and elegant, leaving a beautiful legacy for those who knew her.
Martha is survived by her son Tom Helligso (Sandi) of Omaha, NE and daughter Ruth Braidic (George) of Rochester, NY; five grandchildren, Tommy Helligso (Allison), Tammi Banghart (Jeff) and Trish Blaschko (Mark) of Omaha, NE, Nadine Peplov (Artem) of Portland, OR and James Braidic (Cristina) of Chandler, AZ; twelve great-grandchildren Brody, Hogan and Piper Helligso, Brady Cundall, Gavin Helligso, Baylor Mains, Baron, Breezy and Brynlee Blaschko, Ben, Sam and Joey Braidic; many nieces and nephews and dear friends.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 68 years, Arthur Helligso, her parents Donald and Helen Stuart, sister Mary Clark (Kelley), brother David Stuart (Geraldine), brother Donald Stuart (Virginia), sister Helen Gambrel (Robert), sister-in-law Peggy Field (Alan).
VISITATION following CDC guidelines: Monday, November 2nd from 5:00pm-7:00pm, at the West Center Chapel. FUNERAL SERVICE: Tuesday, November 3rd, 11:00am at the West Center Chapel. INTERNMENT: Evergreen Cemetery following funeral service. MEMORIAL CONTRIBUTIONS in her name may be sent to First Presbyterian Church, 216 S 34th Street, Omaha, NE 68131.
To view a live broadcast of the Service, go to www.heafeyheafey.com and click the “View Live Service” button on the homepage.