Helen Louise Laval, 89, passed away March 21, 2023.
Helen came into the world in Grant City, Missouri; the 5th of 7 children born to Frances and Loren Cottrell. She and her siblings had a bucolic childhood playing, riding horses, and helping out on the family farm. Helen was an active girl who enjoyed sports. She was proud of lettering in volleyball at Grant City High School. Helen detested gathering eggs from the chickens but developed a green thumb tending to the family vegetable garden — a skill that served her well her whole life. Long after she left Grant City, she continued to keep a garden with veggies and flowers. The irises and peonies she transplanted from her mother’s garden grew in Helen’s garden well into her 80s.
As a young woman, Helen moved over the Iowa line to attend secretarial school at Pioneer College of Business at Iowa Wesleyan College. Upon graduation she moved in with some girlfriends in Kansas City to begin her career registering cattle at the American Hereford Association. At a church Easter egg hunt, Helen met Werner Lindy Laval, who was just back from the Korean War. He liked to joke that he was looking for Easter eggs but was lucky enough to find Helen instead. He wooed her with his good-natured charm and snazzy green convertible, and though the convertible didn’t last very long their relationship did. Both easy-going, sociable, and fun to be around, they were a great match. They were married in 1953 and raised three children together — Denise, Kevin, and Kyle — in the leafy suburb of Raytown. In addition to being a mother, Helen worked as a secretary, most notably at Pembroke Hill School, where she was a beloved member of the school community for many years.
Helen and Lindy traveled to destinations near and far with their group from First Baptist Church, where they were members. Devoted grandparents, they traveled all over the country and even halfway around the world to Australia to visit their daughter Denise, son-in-law Ed, and granddaughters Emily, Elizabeth, and Carrie. Back in Missouri they enjoyed supporting their son Kyle in barbecue competitions and proudly displayed the trophies he won in their kitchen. They kept busy bowling, golfing, and playing pinochle with a group of close friends. Helen always had a big jigsaw puzzle out on the library table in their living room. After Lindy’s death, she treasured staying in the house he had built for them. She loved listening to the birds and watching the squirrels play in the canopy of trees that was eye level with the big wooden deck. She stayed active by walking and attending water aerobics at the local YMCA. Helen was an avid Kansas City sports fan, cheering on the Royals, Chiefs, and the Mizzou Tigers.
Even in her later years when dementia made it difficult for her to do many of the things she used to love, she remained sweet, funny, and occasionally mischievous. After she moved to Foxwood Retirement Community, she reconnected with her good friend from church, Clydene Pennington, and made a few new friends, too. She liked to reminisce about her childhood; the trips she took back up to Grant City with her siblings, children, grandchildren, niece and nephew, were some of the highlights of the past couple years. The last time she was there, in October, family came from near and far to join her and her siblings Jack and Joann in celebrating their birthdays with a party at Jack’s house.
Helen will be remembered as a loving, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She is survived by her brother Jack Cottrell, and sister Joann Hardy; daughter, Denise Hilligoss (Ed Hilligoss) and son Kyle Laval; granddaughters Emily Hilligoss, Elizabeth Hilligoss, and Carrie Firestone (Ezra Firestone); great-granddaughter Audra Firestone; and many nieces, nephews, and their families. She is predeceased by her husband, Werner Lindy Laval; her son Kevin Laval; and her siblings, Betty Bartlett, Bill Cottrell, Joyce Wolfe, and Richard Cottrell.
Funeral services will be held at 1PM, Friday, March 31 at Park Lawn Funeral Home, 8251 Hillcrest Rd., Kansas City, Missouri; burial in Memorial Park Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please consider planting a tree in her honor or making a donation in her memory to a charity of your choice.