MADISON, Wis. — Helene Byrns passed away peacefully on Feb. 14, 2017. She was born January 18, 1921 to Clifford R. and Elsie A. Livingston. Growing up in Merrill, Wisconsin, “Nene” was known for her lively personality, and her distinctive laugh. She often said that she received her early education at her father’s department store, where she met people from all walks of life.
Helene graduated from UW-Madison in 1943. To serve her country during World War II, she found work at the Pentagon, and then joined the Cadet Nurse Corps, earning a Masters’ degree in Nursing from Yale University.
After the war, Helene married her high school sweetheart, Erling Hestad. During a series of moves for his work, Helene brought three children into the world–Sally, John, and David. When Erling passed away, Helene singly-parented her children to adulthood, and helped run the first kidney dialysis machine at Gundersen Clinic in LaCrosse.
Helene’s interest in the arts blossomed after her move back to Madison. She served as a docent for many years at the Chazen (then Elvehjem) Museum of Art. She also volunteered thousands of hours at Meriter and UW Hospitals.
In 1972, she married John W. Byrns, and together they traveled the world, and took part in their grandchildren’s lives. Fun-loving and savvy, Helene was great company, and will be missed by many.
Helene taught her family the meaning of unconditional love, and her passing leaves a gigantic hole in their lives. She is survived by brother, Clifford (Joyce)Livingston; sister, Majorie Greenberger; daughter, Sally Hestad (Roger Backes); sons, John Hestad (Lei Lei), and David (Vicky) Hestad; as well as grandchildren, Valerie Tremelat (Justin Cummins), Mitchell and Anna Hestad; great-grandchild, Elodie Cummins; and many nieces, nephews, and step-family members.
Helene wished to have no service. Memorials can be made to the First Unitarian Society, the Oakwood Foundation, or the Second Harvest Food Bank. Please submit your thoughts to www.never-gone.com/Memorials/helenebyrns
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