Helen C. Vaggalis
8 August 1927- 17 February 2021
Helen Luz Yvonne Cuellar was born in Astoria, New York on 8 August 1927 to Arturo E. Cuellar and Yvonne Cuellar. Helen’s family lived in Astoria until 1930-31 when they moved back to Yvonne’s home in Nanteuil-les-Meaux where they stayed for a short time. Arturo was called back to Bolivia to fulfill his military responsibilities in the burgeoning conflict with Paraguay in what came to be known as the Guerra del Chaco, 1932-1935 (Chaco War). Arturo returned to Bolivia while Helen and her mom came shortly thereafter by ship in 1932. Following Arturo’s capture by the Paraguayans, he was sent to a Prisoner of War (POW) camp until the end of the conflict. Helen and her mother moved from La Paz, Bolivia to Buenos Aires, Argentina where Yvonne sold refrigerators door to door to support her family. Yvonne and Helen returned to La Paz in 1934 where they ran a boarding house where Arturo would return following his release from the POW camp.
Helen attended primary schools in La Paz and finished her secondary education at the Colegio de Santiago (Santiago College), Santiago Chile in 1945-46. She enrolled at Illinois Wesleyan, Bloomington, Illinois where she spent 3 years before transferring to the Northwestern University Medical School, in Chicago, Illinois. She graduated with a degree in Medical Technology in 1950. While finishing her program Helen lived at Abbott Hall where she met Michael T. Vaggalis, a student at the Northwestern University School of Law. Following his graduation in 1952, Helen’s parents moved to Chicago in 1953. Helen and Mike married in 1956 at the Bahai Temple in Wilmette, Illinois and lived in Chicago. In 1958-9, Helen and Mike moved to Denver, Colorado eventually settling in Littleton, Colorado.
Helen worked as a medical technician in Chicago until she moved to Denver to raise a family. While in Denver Helen worked for the Littleton School District and Denver University until her eventual retirement from Heritage High School in the early 90’s. Helen read with vigor most of her life and enjoyed mysteries on the page as well as on the television. In 2013 Helen and her family made a pilgrimage to her early childhood home in Nanteuil where she reminisced with family and began dreaming again in French.
Helen is survived by her children Kathi Schaaf, Steven Vaggalis, Patti Hickey and Chris Vaggalis as well as her sons and daughter in laws Dave Schaaf, Laurie Vaggalis and Brian Hickey. Helen is further survived by six grandchildren: Michael Vaggalis; Kelley Vaggalis; Garrett Schaaf; Maddie Schaaf; Ethan Hickey and Mark Hickey.
She is predeceased by her father Arturo Cuellar, 1977; her husband Michael T. Vaggalis, 1983 and her mother Yvonne L. Cuellar, 1983.
Special thanks the Adeste caretaker team and Abode Hospice.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society or the Friends of the Littleton Library and Museum. In lieu of flowers and donations, have a glass of wine and listen to some Edith Piaf….
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Helen C. Vaggalis, please visit our floral store.