Helen Jean Sloan McClain, 88, died Saturday, May 16, 2015, in Woodstock, after recent declining health.
She was born Aug. 28, 1926, the youngest child of Harold Dewitt and Pamelia (Arbuckle) Sloan, in Spearfish, S.D.
On Nov. 26, 1947, she married Arthur “Art” Wayne McClain in Lincoln, Neb.
She was raised on the homestead ranch her father started 40 miles northwest of Belle Fourche, S.D., that included the corner stone of South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. It was a working cattle and sheep ranch with the nearest neighbor miles away.
Through third grade she rode triple horseback with her two brothers to a one-room prairie schoolhouse. Then, as was the custom for all the ranch kids, she lived in a school-girls boarding home in town, only going home on the occasional weekend and in the summer. She was valedictorian of her high school class and graduated from the University of Nebraska where she studied chemistry and bacteriology.
Helen met her future husband at the University of Nebraska where he was attending on the G.I. Bill. After graduation in 1948, they moved to Chicago. She worked in the laboratories at DuPont and Loyola Medical School while her husband worked as a boiler plant engineer at Campbell Soup’s Chicago plant. She stopped working in 1949 to raise their family.
The McClain family moved to Woodstock in 1957. In 1975, she returned to work at McClain Corporation where she held the position of business manager (aka “Supreme Commander”) until retiring in 1990.
She loved golf and won several women’s championships at Woodstock Country Club. She and her husband were members of Woodstock Country Club for more than 50 years. She was a member of several bridge clubs and played until recently. Her travels included Europe, golfing in Scotland and Australia, Japan, Canada, Mexico and nearly every state.
She was a member of several book clubs, a founding member of the first women’s investment club in Woodstock and a member of Grace Lutheran Church for more than 50 years.
She was born into the life of a Western ranch family that depended on God, nature, hard work and luck to survive. As a child during the Depression, a teen during World War II and a young wife and mother during the changing times of the mid-20th century, her life experiences gave her an outlook she shared: “You make of your life what you choose.” She supported women’s advancement in society and the workplace. To her, education and lifelong learning are the keys to a woman’s security and future. She embraced the advancement of technology, science and education. She chose to donate her organs and her remains to medical research. While her presence will be missed, memories of her will linger.
Survivors include three children, Kelly (Peggy) McClain, Margaret McClain and Scott (Renee) McClain; six grandchildren, Tony (Tammi) Halda, Christy (Steve) Sturm, Andrew (Crystal) McClain, Rhienna (Edward) Trevino, Conner McClain and Abbey McClain; 10 great-grandchildren, Joseph, Jade, Maggie, Steven, Henry, William, Ella, Chelsea, Elyse and Emmit; and many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her husband; her parents; and three siblings, Harold Jr., George and infant Rose Marie.
Memorials can be made to the Adult & Child Therapy Services, 708 Washington St., Woodstock, IL 60098.
A celebration of life and reception will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 25, at Woodstock Country Club, 10310 Country Club Road.
Arrangemements were made by Schneider-Leucht-Merwin & Cooney Funeral Home.