THINGS WORTH REMEMBERING — Rick Iekel self-published “Life Lines: A Selection of Poetry Written by Helen Corrigan Iekel,” to honor his mother, a former Springville resident.
SPRINGVILLE — Helen Corrigan Iekel once told a publisher, “I have to write as much as I have to live and breathe.” The former Springville resident expressed her thoughts, feelings and outlook on life through her poems, which her son recently published, to honor his mother’s legacy.
Rick Iekel said that his mother began writing poetry as early as age 7. “She got her love of writing from her mother, who also wrote poetry,” he explained. “She was deeply fond of her mother.” Helen Iekel was 20, when her mother died, but carried on the family love of writing and poetry.
Iekel was born in Wisconsin in 1905 and grew up in Milwaukee, where she met her husband, William. She earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Marquette University. As part of her master’s program, Iekel published a poetry book, in 1931. “She worked really hard,” Rick Iekel said.
At age 12, Helen Iekel wrote, in her diary, “I know what I want to be when I grow up: the head of a school for troubled girls. I’ve seen how these places are run and I don’t like how it’s done.” In keeping with her childhood wish, Iekel later spent seven years teaching at the House of the Good Shepherd, a haven for young, troubled or pregnant girls.
William and Helen Iekel had four boys, Chris, Jerry, Rick and Bob. Bob died from polio, at age 9.
In 1947, when Rick Iekel was 2 1/2, William Iekel accepted a job as a tool design engineer in Buffalo and moved his family into an old, Springville farmhouse. “Some of my fondest memories are from here,” Rick Iekel said.
Helen Iekel also worked as a substitute teacher at both St. Aloysius Regional School and at Springville-Griffith Institute. She later became a full-time teacher at St. Aloysius.
While living in Springville, she was a member of the Concord Poetry Society, joining Lucy Bensley, Harold Olmsted and other local authors. “I remember that mom hosted a meeting, when I was 9 or 10, and I was responsible for parking the cars,” Rick Iekel said, with a laugh. He recalled another meeting, in which his mother gave a lecture about writing lyric poetry.
In 1962, the plant William Iekel worked at closed, and he found a job in Rochester. “It was hard,” Rick Iekel said, about the move. “I had spent 17 years in Springville. It was home.”
Helen Iekel died in 1988. She had written approximately 200 poems, during her lifetime. After her death, her husband went through her pieces, jotting notes about them, in the margins. “He was the one who took care of her, before she died,” Rick Iekel said.
“She tried to sell her poetry, for a very long time,” he said, about his mother. “She was constantly sending things out and getting rejections, but later, she was mildly successful.” A few of the author’s light verse pieces were printed in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and she was also published in several magazines.
“Most of her poetry is associated with her reaction to people or things in her life, good or bad,” Iekel said, adding that he can still picture his mother sitting at her desk, writing, after any significant life event. “I saw her pounding the typewriter, many a night. That’s how she dealt with things like death and with happy things. She would mull things over, and then write.”
In February, Iekel self-published “Life Lines,” a selection of his mother’s poetry. “I did the book to honor her,” he said.
Forty-three of Helen Iekel’s pieces were included in “Life Lines” and are laid out, according to theme: her children, the farm, how she grieved, her self-awareness and a miscellaneous section. “I wrote commentary that headlines each section and explains why she wrote those poems,” Rick Iekel said. “I wrote about her, to introduce each grouping. I picked the ones I thought were her best; the ones I understood best, or appreciated most.”
While Iekel said that he loves many of his mother’s poems, “A Moment with You,” in which his mother goes back to meet her childhood self, is a favorite of his. This piece, which he said “really reflects the essence of who she was,” is included in “Life Lines.”
“The whole process was thrilling,” Iekel said, about getting his book published. “It was very exciting.” Iekel is also working on a biography of his mother, available soon.
“Life Lines” is on Amazon.com
, in both print and electronic form. In addition, it will soon be available at the Concord Mercantile. For more information, contact Iekel at 585-663-2006.