Sue Helfer, 69, former OP village trustee, CARE Party founder

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By KEN TRAINOR

Former Oak Park village trustee Susan Louise Helfer (nee Shafer), 69, died of a heart attack on March 22, 2005 at Rush Oak Park Hospital.

Ms. Helfer was in her doctor's office following up on treatment for a respiratory condition when she lost consciousness. She was rushed to the emergency room but medical personnel could not resuscitate her. The autopsy revealed a major rupture of her descending aorta.

Susan Helfer, a lifelong resident of Oak Park, was born on March 27, 1935. She grew up on the 800 block of Harvey Avenue, across the alley from the home on Lombard Avenue where she raised her family. A graduate of Longfellow Elementary School and Oak Park and River Forest High School, she was a co-founder of the CARE political party in Oak Park (Citizens Active for a Responsible Electorate), which pulled an upset of the VMA slate in 1985 and as a result Helfer was one of the trustees elected. She served one term.

An avid and interested community activist, she helped organize the village's Neighborhood Watch program; started the Harrison Street Neighborhood Organization in the early 1980s; served as a board member of The Altenheim nursing home in Forest Park for 15 years; was a member of the board of the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest; and was one of the activists responsible for saving the Oak Park Conservatory in the early 1970s.

In the early 1990s, she joined with other neighbors and Oak Park police to "take back" the Harrison Street neighborhood from young toughs who were hanging out and intimidating area residents.

"She was a person who really cared about the community first and foremost," said her husband Hubert. "Her activities were always focused on making life better for the people of the community."

The Helfers were also one of the original investors in Wednesday Journal Inc. when it first began in 1980.

"Sue persuaded me to make the initial investment," Hubert said. "She said, 'We need this.'"

Susan Helfer parents preceded her in death. They were James (Pete) and Ruth (nee Ebersold) Shafer.
She is survived by her husband, Hubert; her children, David (Lisa), Deborah (James) Fitzsimmons, Ruth Wardwell, James and Steven; 10 grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and her sister, Ruth Stork.

She was cremated at Parkwyn Funeral Directors Crematory. A memorial service is being planned for the end of April at The Altenheim in Forest Park. Arrangements were handled by Heritage Funeral Home in Berwyn.

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