Helen Hiller

Helen Lucille Hiller, known as Lucille, was born in Lead, S.D., to Frank and Helen Roetzel, first generation Americans of German immigrants, April 5, 1922. 

Later, the family had a farm in the Limestone area near Custer, S.D., where she and her older sister Bertha rode bareback to the Alkali schoolhouse.

In 1932, following her grandfather’s death, the family moved to the Roetzel Homestead eight miles northwest of Custer. She, her sister and four brothers, Carl, Frank, Fred and Arthur, graduated from Custer High School. 

In 1937, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church was founded and her father provided much of the timber for its construction. The Roetzel brothers worked on the building project alongside the Hiller boys from town. While attending the church Helen fell in love with William L. “Bill” Hiller.

In the fall of 1941 he left for Burbank, Calif., to work for Lockheed Aircraft. In December they were engaged and on April 5, 1942, they married.

The two followed Route 66 to California via the Grand Canyon, where on Feb. 3, 1943, they welcomed a son, William Gary. 

In March of 1944 Helen returned to Custer while Bill went into the Navy. In the summer of 1945, she saw him off to the Pacific Theater from Bremerton, Wash.

Bill  returned to Custer in time for the arrival of their daughter Karen Lucille, born March 19, 1946. In 1947, Bill enlisted in the Army Air Corps at what is now Ellsworth Air Force Base and, the family remained in Custer until 1949, when they moved to Rapid City, S.D.

In 1954, Bill was sent to Korea, and that Thanksgiving Helen  packed up the family and, despite strong reservations from her mother, traveled by bus and train to Seattle, Wash., and boarded the USS Billy Mitchell naval transport and joined Bill in Misawa, Japan, living there for one and a half years.

In 1956, the family returned to Ellsworth, and in 1960, they transferred to Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas, and in 1964 to Castle AFB near Merced Calif., from where Bill retired from the service.  They remained in Merced until their deaths.

Helen kept in touch with many via letter and phone, volunteered at local hospitals for over 40 years, was a faithful attendee of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Merced, teaching Sunday School, attending LWML and sang in the choir.

Helen died Aug. 11, 2019. She was 97.

She is survived by her son, William (Mary); daughter, Karen (Gary); sister-in-law Elma DuChateau of Custer, S.D.; seven grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, three great-great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. 

Services are Sept. 7 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Merced. Internment will be Sept. 9 at San Joaquin National Cemetery in Santa Nella, Calif.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

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