An advocate for the developmentally disabled, she helped hundreds of Twin Cities children learn to read.
Helen Ann Omodt, a long-time advocate for the developmentally disabled and a volunteer in Minneapolis schools for more than 30 years, died Nov. 19 of ovarian cancer. She was 78.
Omodt also was widely known as the wife of former Hennepin County Sheriff Don Omodt, who survives her. They were married 52 years ago.
Relatives credit Helen Ann Omodt with helping to teach reading to hundreds of Twin Cities children through one-on-one tutoring.
"That was her passion, to make sure kids could read," said her son Paul Omodt, of St. Louis Park. "She believed if kids could read, they could learn. She was always buying and donating books for kids."
Raised in a prosperous St. Paul family that fell on hard times in the 1930s, Helen Ann Wilson cooked, cleaned and did other household chores at age 13 that were once performed by maids, recalled her younger sister, Carole Kenny, of Bloomington.
She took the change in lifestyle cheerfully, without much help from at least one of her siblings, Kenny said. "I thought she was really good," Kenny said. "I was not helpful. I was kind of a beastie kid."
The experience may have led his mother to care as much for others as for herself, Paul Omodt said.
"I don't think she owned any clothes that were fashionable," he said. "She put her money into her family and the people she brought into her life."
A graduate of St. Joseph's Academy in St. Paul and the University of Minnesota, she taught for several years in Minneapolis schools before becoming a volunteer. She also worked with the developmentally disabled.
"Mom was instrumental in getting people out of state hospitals and into homes," Paul Omodt said.
In addition to her husband, sister and son Paul, she is survived by her other children, Chris Omodt of Savage, Sue Haverberg of St. Paul, Steven Omodt of Edina, Tom Omodt of Minneapolis, Amy Omodt of Minneapolis, Mark Omodt of St. Anthony; a brother, Frank Wilson, of Minneapolis, and 14 grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. today at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Edina. A private burial will follow at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.