At age 103, Helen Dutrow was just as strong-willed as she was as a young woman, friends and family members recall. Her age never put a pause on her passions. She continued to garden and rake leaves …
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At age 103, Helen Dutrow was just as strong-willed as she was as a young woman, friends and family members recall.
Her age never put a pause on her passions. She continued to garden and rake leaves in the backyard of her Arvada home until age 98. She continued to religiously wish friends and family members a happy birthday, with dozens of birthdays memorized even into her later years. And she continued to throw her well-loved holiday parties to which everyone she knew was welcome to attend — including a festive get-together for Christmas 2019. It was the last Christmas that Dutrow celebrated before she passed away on July 22, 2020, having made more than a century’s worth of memories.
“There wasn’t anything she didn’t believe she could do. It was very inspiring,” said friend Judi Haley. “She was a force.”
Born in Arnold, Neb., on June 6, 1917, Dutrow later moved to Arvada where she lived for decades with her husband, Jim. In her 103 years, she lived through numerous hardships, including two pandemics, the Great Depression and multiple successful battles with cancer.
“Toward the end, she had such pain but she did not complain about it. It was pretty incredible,” said daughter Barbara Michael.
Dutrow is remembered as both a woman who had the sharpest of minds throughout her 103 years, and a woman with many passions — including cooking. Friends fondly recalling favorite recipes of hers such as Mexican dishes and the bread she baked from scratch. With Jim, Dutrow shared additional activities, including a passion for hot air balloon rides, which Helen enjoyed through her 90’s; and the business they shared with partner Bob Williams, Realty Services, Inc., located on Ralston Road.
“Real estate was (Jim’s) passion so that became her passion,” daughter Debra D’Amico said. “She was in it 100%.”
Dutrow was heavily involved in the community, particularly as a way to support her children, D’Amico, Michael and Todd Bradley, who preceded his mother in death. Among Dutrow’s community involvements as a parent were volunteering with the Girl Scouts, the Cub Scouts and the Parent Teacher Association. The family also regularly participated in the Arvada Harvest Festival and Parade.
Being an involved parent was a major aspect of Dutrow’s life, Michael and D’Amico said, as was being an involved grandparent. Dutrow shared her love of hot air ballooning with her grandson, Troy Bradley, who has gone on to become a famous figure in the hot air ballooning world — one of the highlights of Dutrow’s life.
Just as Dutrow supported her family, she supported the many friends she stayed in touch with for decades.
“She was the matriarch for not only her family but she was the matriarch for all of her friends,” said friend Marion Bolton. “She was always interested in everybody and what everybody was doing. She sure listened.”
Her daughters remember Dutrow as a dedicated mother, as well as an astute businesswoman whose expertise came from attending opportunity school and taking a secretarial job at Stearns Roger. The experiences gave her the confidence that helped her, Jim and Williams build their real estate business from the ground up.
Both daughters added that Dutrow was perhaps even more invested in her daughters’ careers than she was her own, applauding each step they took toward their own career goals. It didn’t go unnoticed, Michael said, recalling a card she once sent to thank her mother which read, “Behind every successful woman is her mother.”
“She passed on the feeling that I could do anything,” Michael said. “There were no limitations.”
Every quality Dutrow had, her friends found endearing, calling her a stoic and stubborn woman who also was kind to a fault and had a sparkle in her eye — earning herself a nickname, “Twinkle,” from Haley.
It was exactly that combination that made so many of the people she crossed paths with friends of hers, for life.
“There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for us and she never expected anything in return,” family member Gary Harris said. “What stood out was how strong her heart was even up to the very end.”
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