Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch (1879 - 1968)

Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch
1879 - 1968
updated November 29, 2019
Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch, mother to 2 children, was born on September 27, 1879 in Zurich, Kansas. She was born into the Steeples family and married into the Kroetch family. She was born to Mary Ann Morison Steeples and Francis Oliphant Steeples, with sibling David. Hellen married John Baptist Henry Kroetsch on January 2, 1901 in Plainville, Kansas and they later divorced in 1904. They gave birth to Juanita (Kroetch) Maxwell and Hollis Joseph Kroetch. She died on September 27, 1968 at Home - Renton, Seattle, Washington at 89 years of age. We know that Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch had been residing in Renton, King County, Washington United States.

Nellie was my great-grandmother and she was a spitfire! A strong woman who made her way in the world working as a seamstress (on the Barbary Coast in San Francisco - sewing for the prostitutes and pimps!), a maid, a hotel manager, and finally the owner of a hotel in Seattle Washington.

Her first marriage was to my great-grandfather, JB Kroetch. Rumor has it that she had a couple of other husbands (I know of a man whose surname was "Campbell") and then finally, the only great-grandfather I knew - David Shirley Abbott (who went by Shirley). They were married until she died. His profession was gambling - and he was very good at it. He did work in the Merchant Marines for several years but he said (and I believe him!) that was just so that he could win the wages of the other men on the trip home. He and Grandma Nell were a pair - she didn't allow drinking or smoking in her house and he adored her.

She always wore dresses (usually satin, with several petticoats), even at home, and a fur (mink) coat when she went out. She made good bread but boy, could she over-cook a roast! Since she grew up on a farm in Kansas, she followed the customs she knew - dinner was at noon, the main meal of the day, and supper (in the evening) was a light meal. She sewed clothes for my sister and me until she died and made "smoking jackets" for her grandsons. (Following the Victorian fashion, she made them multi-colored and of silk - a patchwork construction. My Dad - her grandson - said wearing it outside when we lived on Bird Ave in San Jose CA, traffic would stop!) She also crocheted/tatted - she made a tablecloth for both of her grandsons and their wives. I still have both of them. She loved arts and crafts. Remember "Popsicle" lamps? She made those - and she used "paint by numbers" kits to make art for the walls. (This was in the 60s - Grandpa Shirley also brought home velvet paintings when he went on trips in the Merchants.) And she made leather purses for my sister and me - still have my purse too.

You should have seen their house! It was very large for the time and it was filled with her finished projects and his memorabilia from his travels. Also, they kept a lot of cash (from his gambling - although he had stocks too) in the house, hidden in various places. So when they bought a car - always a Lincoln - the salesman would deliver the car to their house and they would give him cash for the full price. What a treat to have both of them as great-grandparents and how blessed were we to know them all of the time we were growing up.

Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch Biography

Vital facts & highlights of Hellen's life to share with the world

Most Commonly Known Name

Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch

First name


Middle name


Maiden name


Last Name(s)

Nickname(s) or aliases

Nellie Abbott
Nell Campbell




Hellen Kroetch was born on in Zurich, Kansas United States


Hellen Kroetch died on at Home - Renton, in Seattle, King County, Washington United States

Cause of death

Sepsis X 1 week, secondary to breast cancer x 11 years

Burial / Funeral

at Home, in Renton, King County, Washington United States



Ethnicity & Lineage

Both of Grandma's parents were born in Scotland and emigrated to the U.S. But anyone with Scottish roots - no matter how deep they run - knows that there is probably some Norse or French in there, at least. AND, in doing our genealogy, we found out (horror of horrors to anyone who is Scottish and/or Welsh) that there was an English soldier in there - one who was stationed in Scotland and stayed to marry a Scottish lass.

Nationality & Locations Lived

She was born in Kansas and later in life lived in San Francisco, Aberdeen Washington, and Seattle Washington (where she died).


Hmmm . . . good question. I never knew Grandma to go to church. Her first husband, JB Kroetch, my great-grandfather, was Catholic but she wasn't. Her family was probably Methodist.

Last Known Residence

Renton, King County, Washington United States


I know that Grandma Nell went to grade school but since it was common when she was young to only go through 8th grade, I don't believe she had any higher education. BUT she was smart as a whip. I asked her about her school - all that I remember is that it was a one-room schoolhouse, that she rode her horse to school, and that each child had to take a lump of coal for the schoolhouse stove. That's how they stayed warm!


Although she had two children (a boy and a girl), Grandma Nell and "old man Kroetch" (that's what she called him!) were divorced after only a few years of marriage. This was somewhere around 1907 or so, so divorce was fairly rare. She took her daughter with her (Juanita was the eldest) and left her son (my grandfather) with his paternal grandmother, Angeline Kroetch. He sometimes also stayed with his maternal grandmother, who lived nearby in Kansas. The family story is that she could pass off her daughter as her sister but my grandfather, being around 3 or so, would have been seen as her son.

Grandma then worked as a seamstress, maid, and hotel manager at various times in various locales. Since she was a "liberated" woman, her Kansas family - her brother and his children - viewed her as wild, giving rise to some scandalous stories in their family. She encouraged these stories and even made them more expansive. She LOVED poking at people's perceptions. When she visited the Kansas family, she would outrage them by going in to a bar/tavern, alone. You know, women weren't allowed in such places! She didn't care. By the time I was born, Grandma Nell was co-owner of the Blackstone Hotel but didn't work.

Personal Life & Organizations

Share some highlights of Hellen's personal life & organizations in which they participated.

Military Service

Grandma Nell wasn't in the military. Her son and both grandsons were in the Navy - WW1 and WW2.

Average Age

Life Expectancy

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Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch Family Tree

Hellen's immediate relatives including parents, siblings, partnerships and children in the Kroetch family tree.


Oct 20, 1847 - Jun 11, 1929
Mar 4, 1843 - Apr 28, 1881


Jan 27, 1873 - April 1953



Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch & John Baptist Henry Kroetsch

January 2, 1901 - 1904
Cause of Separation: Divorce
Plainville, Rooks County, KS, 67663, United States
Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch


Apr 7, 1874 - April 1945


Mar 26, 1901 - Jun 2, 1935
Jan 1, 1903 - February 1978


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Hellen's Family Photos

Photos and snapshots taken of Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch, her Kroetch family, and locations and places or events from her life.


Share Memories about Hellen

What do you remember about Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch? Share your memories of special moments and stories you have heard about her. Or just leave a comment to show the world that Hellen is remembered.

Daniel Pinna
3.66k+ favorites
WOW - she died on her BIRTHDAY!? There has to be a story about that? And so THIS is the one who owned part of BlackStone hotel. Still shocked about that one - BlackStone just came out of nowhere when I renamed Copydox to BlackStone in Palo Alto.
Nov 28, 2019 · Reply
Kathy Pinna
20.5k+ favorites
Yes, she died in her sleep during the night - just like she wanted. She and Gpa Shirley owned half of the Blackstone with another man. I think I mentioned that to you . . . AFTER you used that name. :)
Nov 29, 2019 · Reply
Kathy Pinna
15 favorites
She wasn't perfect - none of us are - but she had a big heart and a zest for life. When she was in her 70's, she would see someone walking along (probably in their 60s or 70s) and say "Look at that poor old lady"! That's what my Dad loved about his grandmother - she did what had to be done, she enjoyed life, she had a huge sense of humor, and she didn't care what others thought.
Nov 28, 2019 · Reply
Daniel Pinna
417 favorites
I remember you mentioning someone saying "look at that poor old lady" when she was the same age - So that was my grandfather's grandma - Hellen.

She sewed smoking jackets and made one for Frank. So then how did I get mine? Or was mine grandpa's?
Nov 28, 2019 · Reply
Kathy Pinna
20.5k+ favorites
She also made one for Grandpa's brother's son, Brent. Brent threw it out and Grandma (Joyce) rescued it. She saved it for you. That's why yours is so small - Brent was just a kid/toddler when she made it.

I don't know what happened to Grandpa's (adult) jacket - my mom saved it for years but I suspect that she finally gave it to Grandpa. Grandma Carol may still have it but she wouldn't let Pam or me have any of that stuff (family stuff).
Nov 29, 2019 · Reply

Hellen Kroetch Obituary

This obit of Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch is maintained by Hellen's followers. Contribute to her obituary and include details such as cemetery, burial, newspaper obituary and grave or marker inscription if available.

Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch, mother to 2 children, died on September 27, 1968 at Home - Renton, Seattle, Washington at 89 years of age. She was buried in Home, Renton, Washington. She was born on September 27, 1879 in Zurich, Kansas. She was born to Mary Ann Morison Steeples and Francis Oliphant Steeples, with sibling David. Hellen married John Baptist Henry Kroetsch on January 2, 1901 in Plainville, Kansas and they later divorced in 1904. They gave birth to Juanita (Kroetch) Maxwell and Hollis Joseph Kroetch.
Followers & Sources
Other Records of Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch

1879 - 1968 World Events

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Hellen's lifetime

In 1879, in the year that Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch was born, on October 22nd, Thomas Edison tested the first practical electric light bulb. Lasting 13½ hours before burning out, it used a "a carbon filament or strip coiled and connected to platina contact wires". He applied for a patent on November 4th, receiving the patent in January 1880.

In 1882, when she was only 3 years old, on September 4th, the switch to the first commercial electrical power plant in the U.S. - at 255-257 Pearl Street - was flipped by Thomas Edison. It lit one square mile of lower Manhattan and was powered by coal. The "electrical age" had begun.

In 1899, when she was 20 years old, on February 14th, the first voting machines were approved by Congress for use in federal elections. Several states were already using voting machines in their elections and the Federal government was finally convinced of their safety and accuracy.

In 1957, she was 78 years old when on October 4th, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the first man made earth-orbiting satellite - and triggered the Space Race. Sputnik I was only 23 inches in diameter and had no tracking equipment, only 4 antennas, but it had a big impact.

In 1968, in the year of Hellen Isabel (Steeples) Kroetch's passing, on January 31st, the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive, a turning point in the Vietnam War. 70,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces swarmed into South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese and US troops held off the offensive but it was such fierce fighting that the U.S. public began to turn against the war.

Other Biographies

Other Kroetches

Apr 21, 1908 - March 1987
Sep 6, 1913 - Jan 8, 1999

Other Steepleses

Jun 6, 1884 - August 1962
Dec 15, 1910 - Feb 10, 2002
Jul 5, 1937 - Jan 15, 2008
Oct 17, 1888 - November 1973
Aug 25, 1932 - Sep 16, 1995
Aug 25, 1916 - January 1979
Jul 4, 1951 - July 1979
Jun 16, 1950 - April 1992
Aug 4, 1953 - Jan 2, 2011
Nov 30, 1946 - July 1977
Sep 2, 1921 - November 1973
Sep 30, 1925 - Sep 5, 1998
Sep 12, 1963 - August 1986
Jun 20, 1921 - Nov 17, 2001
Aug 24, 1898 - May 1987
Dec 17, 1929 - Oct 29, 2001
Jul 7, 1897 - March 1968
Aug 12, 1908 - Nov 8, 1995
Unknown - Unknown

Other Bios

Unknown - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
1892 - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
Sep 15, 1917 - Unknown
Jul 29, 1939 - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
around Nov 25, 1856 - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
Aug 22, 1863 - Unknown
Sep 10, 1869 - Unknown
June 1887 - Unknown
Jul 21, 1899 - Jul 2, 1961
Sep 28, 1914 - Dec 11, 1978
Jul 22, 1952 - May 28, 1972
Unknown - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
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