Cover photo for Helen  Perlich's Obituary
Helen  Perlich Profile Photo

Helen Perlich

d. March 3, 2019


Helen Perlich passed away on March 3, 2019. She beat breast cancer, but could not beat dementia.

Helen was born September 12, 1946 to Howard and Frances (Zink) Birnbaum. She was raised a proud Northsider, attending St. James Elementary School. She graduated from Aquinas High School in 1964 and received her Bachelor’s degree from UW-LaCrosse, after which she spent her career working with area youth. Her career began as a LaCrosse County Social Worker, recruiting foster parents and helping foster children with their many and varied struggles. Helen furthered her education, obtaining a Masters of Science in Special Education from UW-L, which led to her employment with St. Michael’s Home for Children. In 1979, she began her career in the Special Education Department at Central High School, eventually becoming Department Chair, but more importantly, making many lifelong and dear friends. While teaching, Helen spent her nights and weekends, attending Winona State University to receive an Administrator’s Certification in Secondary Education. Furthering her education, led in time, to her becoming the Associate Principal at Central. Helen was forever grateful to Principal Tom Barth and Superintendent Dick Swantz for their faith in her. She served in that position until her retirement in 2005.

Helen met John J. Perlich in the mid-70s at the old LaCrosse courthouse, when a beautiful woman with a broken leg from the Northside was getting on the elevator at the same time as a young lawyer. Some of you might not know this but Helen actually turned John down the first time he asked her out. Thankfully she came to her senses. Helen and John were married on March 29, 1975 and thus began the Perlich family. They eventually moving into a house on 20th street, where John Howard, their only son, arrived on June 28, 1976, and central air conditioning arrived shortly after thanks to her parents, Howard and Frances Birnbaum.

What a neighborhood? It’s probably a good thing that neither the neighborhood or Gotto Lake can talk.

Whether it was water fights, sunning herself in the back yard, maybe or maybe not putting a blaze orange toilet in the Detert’s front yard every St. Patrick’s Day, parties at Wilma’s, really, parties everywhere, Tom Weiland appreciation day, or curling in mixed doubles bonspiels, Helen was living life to her fullest, always ready with a laugh or kind word because she loved people.

It was also during this time that her affiliation with Central High School began. It was the last place she ever worked. No one knows what it was with that neighborhood but teachers at all three high schools were represented on the block. Helen was dedicated to her students and colleagues until her early retirement in 2005. John Howard vividly remembers when his mom was working on her Master’s and commuting to Winona, it was one of the few times he and his dad could eat Kentucky Fried Chicken, or as Helen called it, Kentucky buzzard.

Thank you to Central High School and her many colleagues for adding to the fullness of Helen’s life. The Barths, the Nesbitt’s, the Hansens, Mary Bagely too many more to name them all and last but definitely not least thank you to Dave and Linda Needles.

While working at Central, Helen met a librarian, Linda Needles, which was a friendship that will last an eternity. Looking at their friendship, from the Chileda runs, to walking before school, to the numerous social events, Helen and Linda seemed joined at the hip, which lead in time to Dave, Linda’s husband and John becoming lifelong friends. Thank you Dave and Linda for your friendship, from Newfoundland, to Mexico, to 4 wheeler treks and travels across the country the adventures the four of you had created memories to last a lifetime.

Helen was a kind, loving, and caring person who always wanted what was best for her family, friends, colleagues, and students. She would “bring her work home” or go above and beyond to help a student who was having a tough time. Many times, years after the student had left Central High School, a letter, or eventually an email would arrive, thanking Helen for helping to guide that student to becoming the person they are. That’s who she was, a dedicated educator who always had the best interest of the student, or in many cases, her son, at heart.

Helen is survived by her husband of 44 years John, son, John Howard, a sister and brothers, Mary Jo, Howard (Maurita), Kenny (Donna), Frank (Linda) Birnbaum, and her special cousin Carl (Lorna)Barnes. Also sisters in law Barb (Michael) Robbins, Betsy (Bob) Moran along with many nieces and nephews.

Helen was preceded in death by her parents, Howard and Francis, her in-laws, John and Victoria Perlich and Uncle and Aunt Ron and Junita Barnes.

A Funeral Mass will be held Saturday March 9, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 1333 S. 13th St., Rev. Rick Roberts will officiate with entombment in St. Joseph’s Mausoleum in the Catholic Cemetery. Family and friends may call at the Blaschke & Schneider Funeral Home, 1501 West Ave. S. on Friday March 8th from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. and at the church on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until the time of services. Online condolences may be sent to

She was a thoughtful, considerate, loving, and caring wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, colleague, and teacher. Her disease took her from us too soon, but we will always be able to cherish the time we had with her and the impact she had on so many lives.

A special thank you to those who cared for Helen during her journey, including Erin, Vanessa, Shelia, Denna, the staff at Eagle Crest South and especially Jeanie.

In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made in Helen’s honor to Mayo Clinic Department of Development, Frontotemporal Dementia, 200 First Street SW, Rocherster, MN


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