The Face of Cassia

Helen (left) poses for a picture

A Tribute to Helen Vick: The ‘Matriarch’ of Elim Shores

For 31 years, Helen Vick proudly called Elim Shores Senior Living in Eden Prairie, MN, home.

Helen and her husband Ernest were Elim Shores residents from Day 1 when it first opened in February 1990. According to their son, David Vick, only one other resident moved in before them, by about 30 minutes.

They were happy to pick their own place, choosing a corner unit on the first floor, daughter Dorothy Peterson says.

The Vicks liked that Elim Shores was affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church of America because Ernest had served as a pastor in the denomination.

Prior to moving to Elim Shores, the Vicks had traveled the country and lived in three different places. Their four children said they did not want to move them again.

“It stuck for 31 years,” their son Lowell Vick says.

Staying Busy

For eight years, Helen was an employee in the Elim Shores office. She and Ernest also worked for a local photography business.

She also volunteered to help stuff and stamp envelopes for a local missionary’s newsletter for many years.

Helen stayed engaged in other ways, as well.

“She loved taking the shuttle,” Dorothy says. “She would go to Penney’s and Target, the bank and Christopher & Banks. … Of course, all the games, she was on top of that, and exercise class. Anything she could sign up for, she did.”

She commonly attended Bible studies and worship services, as well.

Though she was an avid piano and organ player, she kept it a secret.

“She didn’t want anyone at Elim Shores to know she could play piano,” Dorothy says. “That was kind of interesting. I asked why that was. She said, ‘They’d want me to play all the time.’”

Helen and Ernest liked interacting with others.

“They always enjoyed mealtime,” David says. “There was fellowship there.”

‘A Remarkable Story’

When Chris Orr became housing director at Elim Shores, he quickly connected with Helen.

“I gravitated to her out of awe that she had called Elim Shores home for 25 years when I got there,” Chris says. “It’s not rare for us to have feelings and family connections, but it is rare for someone to be in the building that long. It provided instant ‘Wow, this is something special’ right off the bat.”

Chris speaks highly of Helen.

“She was a very vibrant and classy lady, just gracious from head to toe,” he says. “She was always involved in activities and outings. She was kind of the matriarch of Elim Shores. No one had been there longer.”

If Chris saw Helen while on a tour, he would introduce her as someone who just moved in, and then finish the sentence with how many years she had lived there.

“She just graciously let me,” Chris says. “I said, ‘Let me know when you’re sick of that joke;’ it meant so much.”

Chris said he was impressed with Helen’s longevity and passion for Elim Shores.

“Talk about a testimony of someone calling Elim Shores home for 31 years. How can you top that?” Chris says.

“She was such an advocate for Elim Shores. She would tell anyone who would listen how much she loved it and enjoyed it. It was a remarkable story. It was almost unbelievable that someone lived there that long.”

Making an Impression

When asked to describe his mother, David says, “She was a very godly woman.”

That wasn’t just because she attended worship services, Bible studies and church services when possible.

“Her friend said to me, ‘Like the old EF Hutton commercials: When EF Hutton speaks, everyone listens. When Helen Vick speaks, everyone leans forward and listens,’” Dorothy says. “She had a wisdom that surpassed a lot of people even in her Sunday school class.”

Her daughter Marilee Shrader described her as a quiet and gentle spirit.

Even those who did not get a chance to know Helen well took notice.

“The pastor of the Free church said, ‘I only met your mother two times, but she was the sweetest person I ever met,’” Dorothy says. “If someone can see that godliness in just a few meetings, I think it goes pretty deep.”

Leaving a Legacy

In 2021, when Helen needed more care than Elim Shores could provide, she moved to Apple Valley Village. Her final day at Elim Shores was an emotional one.

“I’ll never in my whole life forget when we were leaving Elim Shores and walking down the hall past (Chaplain) Peter’s office and Chris’s office and people were lined up on both sides of the hallway and everyone stooped in to say goodbye,” Dorothy says. “It was extremely emotional. They said how much she meant to them and it was mutual.”

The Helen Vick Multi-Purpose Community Room pays tribute to the impact she had on the community.

“That will always be her legacy at Elim Shores,” Chris says. “It’s a beautiful room that the family really appreciated.”

“That just blew me away when I found out they were going to do that,” Dorothy says. “It told me how much they loved her as much as she loved the people there; to have a room like that and her picture right there at the door. It’s a lovely, lovely room where a lot of memories are made.”

Even in her final plans, Helen was thinking of Elim Shores. While planning her celebration of life, she requested memorial donations for the Bridge Program, in lieu of flowers. The Bridge Program bridges the gap for residents facing financial difficulty.

“She wanted to give back a little bit,” Lowell says.

She passed away at the age of 97 on January 22, 2023. Her obituary stated, “Helen made a big impact at Elim Shores and really enjoyed living there.”

For her children, the community is a part of their memories of their mother, Dorothy says.

“When I think of Mom, I think of her at Elim Shores.”