Memorial services for longtime Cortez, CO resident Helen Marie Rohrbaugh will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 13, 2021 at the First United Methodist Church in Cortez. Rev. Jean Schwien will officiate.
The daughter of Paul Lorenzo and Willie Mae (Cotton) Jordan, Helen was born July 24, 1935 as a “blue” baby in a farmhouse without electricity or running water in Bald Hill, TX. Her fighting spirit remained ingrained the entirety of her life. She died on Monday, November 1, 2021 in the care of Vista Grande in Cortez, CO. Her daughter and a gifted CNA were at her side, along with family members’ love. Helen was not afraid or intimidated during her life or in her last days.
Helen graduated from Llano High School in 1953 and continued her education at Southwest Texas State Teacher’s College in San Marcos, where she graduated with a B.S. in Education and minors in music and English. Following her passion and dedication, she trained for six weeks in Nashville, TN at Scarritt College to be a U.S.-2 Methodist Missionary and was appointed to Frances DePauw Children’s Home in Hollywood, CA for three years. Helen earned a Master’s in Social Work at the University of Tennessee in 1963. After four years at Cunningham’s Children’s Home in Champaign-Urbana, IL she moved to Emporia, KS where she met a widower gentleman, Earl L. Rohrbaugh. They were married on August 15, 1971, and she adopted his children, Karl Eric and Amy Denise. They became family, and she often referred to her wedding day as the one when she married “us.” She continued working as a social worker while adjusting to being a wife and mom.
Helen and Earl brought forward the greatest potential in each other; a loving, evolving, and comfortable relationship. When Earl retired from teaching at Emporia State University, Helen retired from supervising at Newman Memorial Hospital. They moved to Cortez into the home Earl designed, but neither of them resigned from their immense dedication to civic duty. Their continued effort of knowledge, understanding and outreach to diverse peoples, and community involvement, will have long-reaching impact. From stakeholders at the Pinon Project, to leaders in Community Concerts and the Montezuma County Democrats, to roles in the Methodist Church, they really were a “power couple.” After Earl’s death in 2010, Helen continued her service, including efforts in establishing the Bridge Emergency Shelter.
Surviving Helen are her children, Karl Rohrbaugh of Napa, CA, and Amy McCulley of Grand Junction, CO; her grandchildren, Eric M. Downing of Tucson, AZ, and Alexia D. Palermo of Grand Junction, CO; her great grandchildren, Preston J. Palermo and Payton A.M. Pidgeon; her step-grandson, Michael J. Palermo (Heather) and their three children; and three nieces, Sharon Hyatt, Linda Gauthier, and Martha Speckles. Helen was preceded in death by her parents; her beloved Earl; her sister, Frances P. Hyatt; and her grandson, Justin Allan, whom she helped during birth and death.
Memorial contributions may be made in Helen’s name to Hope’s Kitchen of the UMC, 515 N. Park St., Cortez, CO 81321, or the Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington Ave., Montgomery, AL 36104.