Helen E., nee Brutto, Neff, 93, of New Athens, IL, was born on February 17, 1926, in Belleville, IL; passed away on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, at the New Athens Home for the Aged.
She was preceded in death by her parents—Walter and Cecelia, nee Wagner, Brutto; her husband of 73 years, Loraine J. “Beanie” Neff, who passed away on March 22, 2018; and one sister, Barbara Gombert.
She is survived by her children—David (Peggy) Neff of Albuquerque, NM; Daniel (Mary) Neff of New Athens, IL; Elaine (Ralph Gabellieri) Malek-Madani of Hillsborough, NC. Her grandchildren–Emelye Neff; Benjamin Neff; Simon Neff; Nathan Neff; Adam Neff. Her great grandchildren—Jonathan Neff; Cason Neff. One sister—Rose Johnson of St Louis, MO; and two brothers—Joseph Brutto of Lebanon, KY, and Jerome Brutto Of Houston, TX, and her beloved cat, Tuddy.
Helen grew up a town girl, in the village of Smithton, where her father ran a dairy collection route of the surrounding farms. She married Beanie Neff, a farm boy, on November 30, 1944, in Smithton, becoming a farm wife. Because she had helped her father on his milk truck, Helen was no stranger to hard work, and partnered in the work on the farm—milking cows, raising chickens, driving truck and tractor—while simultaneously rearing three children. She brought many home-cooked dinners to the field, always with a tablecloth on which to serve them.
There was a kitchen garden, too, and though Helen took pride in a perfect tomato or a basket of cucumbers, her real joy came from her many flowers, planted in abundance around the house and among the vegetables. When Helen began working for the US Postal Service as a rural carrier, her route customers often expressed their appreciation of her service by giving her cuttings, seeds and bulbs from their gardens; these were gifts she enjoyed year after year.
Helen’s job as a rural carrier suited her rather private personality: there was contact with co-workers and route patrons, but also long stretches of time driving alone on two-lane blacktops and gravel roads, time to watch for deer and check the wildflowers, time to blast Beethoven through the Jeep’s speakers.
After retirement, Helen and Beanie traveled; Helen was often the instigator of these excursions, and always the navigator. She studied and planned, and kept them from getting lost, whether in the US or abroad. And always there were flowers—more in retirement than ever before, in the yard, in photos, in needlework.
A raven-haired beauty whose strength and determination carried her through bad times and good until she became a white-haired great grandmother, Helen Brutto Neff had many jobs to do, and did them well. Her family, her other “flowers,” will always miss her.
Helen was a member of St. Agatha Catholic Church and the National Rural Route Carrier Association. She was also a lifelong Cardinal baseball fan, and maintained her allegiance despite competing baseball opinions within the household.
The Neff Family would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the staff at New Athens Home for the Aged for their wonderful care and genuine concern.
Visitation: Friends may call at St. Agatha Catholic Church in New Athens, IL on Monday, June 17, 2019 from 9: 00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Funeral: A mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Agatha Catholic Church in New Athens, IL on Monday, June 17, 2019 at 11 a.m. with Father Mark Reyling officiating.
Heil-Schuessler Funeral Home in New Athens, IL is in charge of arrangements.