Sister Helen Kyllingstad, 94, a Benedictine Sister of Annunciation Monastery, Bismarck, for 64 years, passed into eternal life Aug. 9, 2013, at a Dickinson care center. Mass of Christian burial is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14, at the Chapel of Annunciation Monastery. Visitation begins at 4 p.m. Monday at the monastery and continues until the time of the funeral. A wake service will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the monastery chapel.
Throughout her life, Sister Helen blended faith in God and her love of nursing to heal and promote the well-being of many people. “Nursing and my devotion to God have the same elements, whether it’s the passion, caring or desire,” said Sister Helen in a story about her life as an extraordinary nurse in the book, “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives.”
She served as a nurse for 55 years, a hospital administrator for 25 years and an anesthetist/anesthesia teacher for 23 years. She was a lifetime member of the North Dakota Hospital Association, a member of the American Nurses Association, and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.
Helen, a daughter of John and Lena (Roe) Kyllingstad, was born Feb. 9, 1917, in Valley City, where she grew up with five brothers and one sister. In 1938, she graduated from nursing school in St. Paul, Minn. She studied anesthesia at St. Cloud State in St. Cloud, Minn., and earned a bachelor’s degree in public health from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. She served as public health nurse in Sargent County, Minn., and in Fargo and Mandan. Among other innovations in those post-Depression years, she encouraged grapefruit and orange juice for school lunch programs which helped children who were deficient in Vitamin C.
In 1945, she joined the Catholic Church, entered Annunciation Monastery, and made her monastic profession as a Benedictine Sister on July 11, 1947. She worked at St. Alexius Medical Center before opening and directing a small hospital in Beulah. Next, she went to Bowman where she helped plan the construction and bought equipment for the Tri-Hospital and was its administrator for almost four years. In 1964, she started the Central North Dakota School for Nurse Anesthetists at St. Alexius.
In 1967, Sister Helen began a 20-year career at Richardton Memorial Hospital as administrator and anesthetist. She loved the people of that area and tending to their health care needs. While in Richardton, she helped found the Badlands Association of Hospitals and Home Administrators in which she played an active role.
After retirement, she continued her monastic life of prayer and service, often as a community driver and switchboard operator. She enjoyed reading, word and jig saw puzzles, and creating ingenious greeting cards from wallpaper. A nature lover, she used her electric scooter to go outside and bird-watch and collect wild grasses.
Throughout her life, Sister Helen inspired others to attempt what might have otherwise seemed impossible. “This is a good life,” said Sister Helen on her 60th anniversary of monastic profession. “I wouldn’t change it.” She urged women to follow their dreams. “If you have a dream, just try it. Take the risk.”
Sister Helen is survived by nieces, nephews, cousins, and the Sisters of Annunciation Monastery.
Memorials may be made to Annunciation Monastery.
To share memories of Sister Helen, visit www.parkwayfuneral.com and sign the online guest book. (Parkway Funeral Service, Bismarck)