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Prieston leaves a lasting legacy in the Valley

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The world lost a wonderful person on May 19 when Helen Margaret Prieston passed away at the age of 90 years in Swan River.
Recent generations would know her best as a passionate volunteer with a friendly smile that could light
up a room. 
Helen was born to John and Beth Ingram in Swan River on Oct. 28, 1930. She raised six children, but lived most of her life as a widow to a World War Two veteran. 
Helen married her husband Riley Erwin Prieston on March 26, 1946 at the Benito United Church Manse. He was a Winnipeg Grenadier who fought in the Battle of Hong Kong and was a POW for more than four years. Riley’s younger brother was also killed in action prior to the surrender. Helen would remain an advocate for the Hong Kong veterans for the rest of her life.
Helen and Riley raised a family together, living in Big Woody district and eventually moving to Trout Creek district. They had six children under eight years old when he fell victim to a farm accident in a tractor roll over on July 16, 1956. Helen was only 25 years old at the time. Her children were aged eight, seven, five, four, two and six-months.
“She never remarried,” said Helen’s oldest living daughter, Judy Preston, who now resides in Russell.
“She did have common law partners a couple of times, but she chose to be alone. 
“In the early years, when Mom was first married, she cooked in the bush where Dad worked,” Judy continued. “After he died, she worked as a waitress at the Valley Hotel, Vimy Hotel and Baynes Cafe. Later, she worked as a Nurses’ Aid at the old lodge.” Helen worked hard to provide for her children and to pay off the farm, which she was given 16 years to do. To take welfare meant she would have to sign the farm over, which she did not want to do.
Helen did have the help from her own father, who moved into a house on her yard to assist with work
around the farm. “She paid the farm off before the 16 years, and when she went to get the title, she couldn’t get it as my dad had no will,” said Judy. “She had to wait until her children were old enough to
sign the papers so she could get the title.”
Helen’s children and her community were important to her, always willing to volunteer. Whatever her
children were involved in, she had to be a part of it. 
Organizations that Helen was a part of or involved in included 4-H, the Big Woody Women’s Institute, the
Royal Canadian Legion Ladies Auxiliary Br. 39, the Swan Valley Lodge and Swan River Valley Personal
Care Home – where she did nails for 16 years – and Whitefish Lake Campers Association.
Her 28 year involvement with the Whitefish Lake Campers Association included being a campground host for many years in the twilight of her life.
In 2017, MLA Rick Wowchuk honoured Helen in the legislature with a private member’s statement.
“Helen, at 86 years young, has been a volunteer campground hostess at Whitefish Lake since 1990, dedicating 27 years of her life to serving the public,” Wowchuk said. 
“Helen looks forward to serving the public every summer. From May long weekend until September long
weekend, she is available so families can enjoy the many recreational opportunities our province has to
offer.
“Her passion for providing an inviting atmosphere for the public is recognized throughout the area and her dedication is unmatched. (She) is an amazing and caring individual that goes above and beyond to serve the public.” 
Helen was also a fun-loving people person. “Mom was always happy, loved meeting people, always  helping someone out and never let on if she was not feeling well,” said Judy, explaining that Helen’s health has been rough for the past few years, but wouldn’t talk about it. 
In the end, she died of heart and kidney failure, as well as COVID-19, peacefully with Judy and a
granddaughter at her side...

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Jeremy Bergen
REPORTER
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