Helen Eva Bogunovich Puz of Vashon Island, Washington, passed away on Sunday, June 10, 2012.
Helen was born to Mande and Mate Bogunovich on December 27, 1912 in Bacina, Croatia. She traveled to this country with her mother as an infant and passed through Ellis Island in New York on their way to join Mate in Montana. The family moved to Washington and settled in Dockton, Vashon Island where they joined a community of other Croatian immigrants. As the eldest child in a fast growing community of immigrants, she became the godmother to a score of children who lovingly called her Kuma.
After graduating from Vashon High School, Helen earned her degree at Beutel Business School in Tacoma where she became proficient in the now lost art of shorthand. During the depression, women were expected to give up their jobs when they married and she did so when she married Anthony (Tony) Puz of Tacoma in November, 1936.
The family moved to Tahlequah, Vashon Island, in 1945 with their three daughters JoAnn, Madeline, and Rosemary, and son Don. A second son, Tom, was born after the family moved to Vashon. While her husband commuted to Tacoma to work, Helen raised currants and strawberries on the farm to make extra money to help support her growing family. In the summers, she worked for Wax Orchards as a supervisor in the cherry cannery.
In 1954, Helen’s husband Tony perished in a fire that destroyed the family home. After spending several months living in the St. Patrick’s parish house in Dockton, the family moved to Center where Helen raised her five children and where she lived until 2010. She moved to Federal Way to be closer to her daughter Jo Ann and son-in-law Dean Saucedo.
Tragedy struck again in 1983 when Helen’s son Tom succumbed to a brain tumor. About the same time, she underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy in her battle against breast cancer.
Helen was a master gardener in the truest definition of the word. She taught many people the art of cultivating and growing and was well known for her beautiful collection of dahlias which she shared with many of her friends. After retirement, she joined the Vashon Garden Club where she learned the art of flower arranging, both fresh and dry. Many family members have the fruits of her talent in their homes. She held several offices over the years in the Vashon Garden Club and won many awards for her flower arrangements in flower shows both off and on the Island. Helen was a faithful parishioner of St. John Vianney church and every Sunday for many years, her flowers adorned the altar of the church.
Helen was a real estate agent for Frederick’s Rand Realty in the late 1950s and was a custodian at Vashon High School for ten years until her retirement in the mid-seventies.
Helen was a celebrity beyond Vashon Island when the story of the “Bicycle in the Tree” became known. Her son Don abandoned a donated bicycle in the woods north of the intersection at Center. When his bicycle was discovered imbedded in the tree, Helen finally set the record straight in a story published in the Beachcomber newspaper in 2010.
In 2002, Helen was chosen to be the Grand Marshal of the Vashon Strawberry Festival parade and rode in a carriage drawn by a team of horses owned by Tom Stewart of Misty Isle Farm. She was accompanied by her two sisters, Jennie Livers and Mary Campbell, who had been born and raised in Dockton.
In September of 2010, Helen was a speaker at the dedication of the Dockton’s Historical Trail where she talked about growing up in the thriving town of Dockton. Her opening remark, “If I had known I was going to be giving this speech when I was growing up, I would have taken better notes,” delighted the crowd.
Helen had a quick wit and bright mind. She started each day working the crossword puzzle in the Tacoma News Tribune. She was an avid Mariners fan and during football season rooted for the Seahawks. In the winter, she cheered on the Gonzaga University basketball team.
Helen was a lifelong Democrat who closely followed politics and enjoyed a good discussion on the merits of her political party.
Helen was predeceased by her parents, Mate and Mande Bogunovich; husband Tony, her son Tom, and her sister Jennie Livers. She leaves behind her sister Mary and her husband Albert Campbell, and scores of nieces and nephews.
Helen leaves behind her children Jo Ann and her husband Dean Saucedo, Madeline Bost, Rosemary and her husband Bob Lowman, Don and his wife Su, and her daughter-in-law Doris Paulsen. Her legacy includes grandchildren Julie (Dave) Freiheit, Mark Crane, Dean (Arlin) Crane, Susan (Doug) Bryan, Mary Crane, Karen (Tom) Berquist, Wendy Bost, Sandra Bost (Patrick Weaver), Jeff (Mayada) Lowman, Debbie Hogan, Cindy Lowman, Brian (Wendy) Puz, Adair Davidson, Erica (Mike) Ballou, Tony (Susan) Puz, Danielle (Eric) Bingham and Wes Paulsen. She also leaves behind 36 great grandchildren and 4 great-great grandchildren. She also leaves behind scores of friends, some who have lovingly called her Mom.
Funeral services are being arranged by Island Funeral Service. A funeral mass will be held at St. John Vianney on Thursday, June 14th, 2012, at 11:30 a.m. with a viewing preceding the service from 10:00 to 11:15 a.m. A reception will follow at St. John Vianney. Interment will be at Calvary Cemetery in Tacoma following the reception.
Donations may be made in her name to the “Helen Puz Memorial Scholarship – VMIGC” (Vashon Maury Island Garden Club) at P.O. Box 2113 – Vashon, WA 98070 or to the “Vashon Maury Island Heritage Association” at P.O. Box 723 – Vashon, WA 98070.