On March 16, 2021, Helen Pedroja passed away at the age of 85. Helen was born in Wichita, Kansas, studied at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, and graduated from University of Colorado, Boulder in 1958.
Helen was a wonderful, giving, and gifted woman. She began teaching at Grant Elementary school in Topeka from 1958 -1964, and then taught at State Street Elementary school for 37 years, from 1964-2001. Altogether, Helen taught in TPS USD 501 for 43 years. She was the fun teacher every student wanted and gave each student the opportunity to explore their creativity, further enriching their educations. With her students she did papier mache, painted, made hats and jewelry, and used clay to help students explore all mediums of the arts.
Early each July she would start decorating her classroom festively for the school year. Her dedication to teaching inspired former students to pursue careers in education; some going on to teach alongside her at State Street.
Helen wrote a school song for State Street Elementary called, “It’s Great to be a State Street Star!”. Over 400 students and staff would sing the song each week to start their Monday morning assemblies. A real tribute to Helen’s love and passion for students and teaching, the song goes like this:
“It's great to be a star at State Street. It's fun to wear the white and blue.
We're making friends to last a lifetime, we're proud of all we learn and do, we learn and do.
We'll keep you in our hearts forever, we'll shout it near and far. State Street is the best of all the rest, it's great to be a State Street Star!”
Helen also ran the Melody Brown Fun Factory each summer at Washburn University - a youth summer camp serving children around Topeka, designed to give students experience with the arts.
After Helen retired, she would knit over 100 sets of hats and mittens each year for the State Street kindergarteners. She knitted all year long, so that as soon as the cool weather came around, she had them finished and delivered to the school in decorated hat boxes.
Helen’s fervent loyalty to the University of Kansas Jayhawks Men’s basketball program began at a young age, attending KU basketball (and football) games with her sister Paula and their father Pat Pedroja, a KU alumni.
Throughout her lifetime, Helen cherished the KU basketball games that she and her Topeka friends attended together as season ticket holders. She was able to travel to several NCAA “Final Four” basketball championship tournaments with her sister’s family when KU was playing.
Over the years, Helen very much enjoyed traveling with her sister, brother-in law and their family to New York City, and Martha’s Vineyard in the summer. She also had a great love of gardening, walking, sewing, and cooking.
Helen is survived by her nephew Greg (Debbie) Meyers of Midland, MI; niece Avery Meyers of Los Angeles, CA; nephew Warren Meyers of Los Angeles, CA; great-nephew Jack Meyers of Westerly, RI; and Brother-in law Bud Meyers of Los Angeles. Helen was pre-deceased by her parents, Helen and Edward E. Pedroja of Eureka, KS; and her sister, Paula Meyers of Los Angeles, CA.
The family would like to thank all of Helen’s wonderful friends in Topeka for their help during her stay in assisted living, and the teams at Topeka’s McCrite Assisted Living, Homestead Assisted Living, and Interim Healthcare Hospice for their compassionate care of Helen.
“Rock Chalk, Helen”
A memorial gathering in Topeka will be planned early this summer. Details will be updated online.
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