OAK HARBOR, Ohio - Helen M. Vollmer, a retired teacher and school psychologist who as a child lost her mother and sister in a house fire, died of heart failure Wednesday in the Riverview Senior Healthcare nursing home. She was 92.
A resident of Catawba Island, Mrs. Vollmer began her career at the Nina School, a one-room school in Ottawa County's Erie Township. She went on to have a long career with the Port Clinton City Schools, where she retired in 1980 as a psychologist and reading specialist.
In 1919, tragedy struck when her family's Catawba Island home burned down. The blaze was caused by her mother's inadvertent use of gasoline in a coal oil lamp. The results were lethal.
“Helen escaped by jumping from the second floor but her little sister wouldn't jump,” explained Mrs. Vollmer's niece, Barbara Petersen Bailey. “Her sister died in the fire. Her mother got out but died of smoke inhalation a little later.”
Mrs. Vollmer's father, a farmer, sent her to live in Oak Harbor, where she was raised by her maternal grandmother, Sorina Segaard.
Mrs. Vollmer earned her teaching certificate from Bowling Green State University, after graduating from Oak Harbor High School.
She taught at the Nina School until 1935, when she married Lawrence Vollmer.
“When she got married, she had to quit teaching because there weren't that many jobs around and married women were supposed to give them to men,” Mrs. Bailey said. “This was the Depression.”
The job market improved after the start of World War II. Mrs. Vollmer returned to education, teaching at Catawba and Portage elementary schools. At the same time, she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in education from BGSU.
“She was very bright,” said Elaine Petersen, the wife of a nephew. “She could recognize a former student even if he was an old man.”
Added Mrs. Bailey: “She was very proud of her teaching. A lot of people thanked her for it over the years.”
Mrs. Vollmer enjoyed traveling in her retirement and took trips to Europe and Australia after her husband's death in 1982.
Her memberships included St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Port Clinton and its Women's Missionary Society, The Dorcas Society, Catawba Island Garden Club, the Port Clinton Retired Teachers Association, Ohio School Psychologists Association, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Ottawa County Historical Museum, Ottawa County Genealogical Society, and First Families of Ottawa County.
Surviving are nieces and nephews.
Services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in the Gerner-Wolf-Brossia-Marsh Funeral Home, Port Clinton, where the body will be an hour earlier.
The family requests tributes to the church's window fund.