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Obituary: June B. Helton Stromberg

Centenarian-plus, beloved matriarch, Girl Scout leader, lifelong learner

June Helton Stromberg was born October 19, 1915, in Grandfield, Oklahoma, in the home of her parents, Robert Isaac Helton and Stella Moore Helton, joining an older brother, Robert M. Helton.

She died November 8, 2021, in Claremont. To the end of her 106 years, June loved to tell stories of her family. For example, of her mother who at 18 became the teacher of a one-room school with 30 first through 12th graders; of her father who built still standing grain elevators in Grandfield in 1913, farmed, and for a period served as the overalls-wearing president of the small town’s First State Bank. Until her death, she took an active interest in her Oklahoma wheat farm.

She attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, a two-year women’s school at the time, and earned her bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Oklahoma. In 1936 she married her college sweetheart, T.C. Stromberg of Ardmore, Oklahoma, in her family home. She then worked as a bank teller and bookkeeper, during a time in which teaching jobs preferentially went to men and single women.

Looking to build their lives together in new directions, the young couple took notice of an ad announcing the need for a lumber yard in Artesia, New Mexico. Aided by a loan, they established the Artesia Lumber Company in 1939. Excepting the war years when they were away for service in the U.S. Navy, the Strombergs spent the next four decades in Artesia, raising daughters Sara and Ann and becoming involved in community activities. They retired to Ardmore, Oklahoma, where they celebrated their 64th anniversary before T.C.’s death in 2000.

At 90, she moved to the Claremont Manor Retirement Community to be near her daughter, Ann. There she joined the United Church of Christ Congregational and participated in various classes,  including her favorite, water aerobics.

In Artesia she had been active in her Presbyterian church as a deacon and elder; in P.E.O. International, which provided an outlet for her deep interest in women’s education; and as a co-leader of two Girl Scout troops over 17 years. A lifelong member of Girl Scouts, she and friend Edna Carper were longtime co-leaders of troop 20, whose members (now 79 and 80 years old) continue to meet on Zoom. Later, June also co-lead a second troop, whose members she also adored, and worked several years as a teacher’s aide in Cottonwood, New Mexico. Everywhere she lived, she was known for her dedication to serving others, sense of humor, open-mindedness, and desire to keep learning — exemplified by the classes she took in fly-fishing in her 80s and lipreading in her 90s.

The survivor of two pandemics (Influenza in 1918-19 and COVID) and two world wars, mother to two daughters and two Girl Scout troops, she is deeply missed by those who love her.

She lives in the hearts of daughters Ann Stromberg (Rudi Volti) of Claremont, and Sara Jones (Nathan Jones) of Allen, Texas; grandchildren Troy Zeleny, Faith Nelson and Ashley Jones, also of Allen, Shannon McElroy of Ardmore, Oklahoma, and Kate Volti of Austin; eleven great-grandchildren; three great-great grandchildren; six nephews/nieces and their families.

She also thought of others “like family,” including the Josefy family of Grandfield, Oklahoma;  Gitty Rossouli, American Field Service daughter of Encino, California; all her Girls Scouts; Schebriel Dennis of Roswell, New Mexico; Mona Montes of Los Angeles, and other dedicated caregivers.

The family is grateful to Pilgrim Place Health Services Center and the VNA Hospice of Southern California for help with her care in the last years of her life.

Those wishing to honor June with a gift might consider: Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest at https://www.gsdsw.org/en/donors/ways-to-give.html, or by check to 700 Girl Scout Way, El Paso, TX 79924 (Fund Development Department); or Pilgrim Place at https://www.pilgrimplace.org/giving, or by check to 625 Mayflower Rd., Claremont, CA 91711 (Advancement: for PPHSC).

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