Helen Bandyke: Surviving Spouse of the Month | February 2023
Helen Bandyke was the youngest of three daughters born in Detroit, MI. At the age of 15, she lost her mother. Since she was eight years younger than her closest sister, she was the only daughter at home. Her father was a teamster that delivered bricks for a local brickyard. Back then, teamster referred to a person who drove a team of horses pulling a wagon. He loved working with the horses and passed down his love for animals to Helen.
When Helen was about 16, her brother-in-law introduced her to a gentleman he regularly played tennis with, Thaddeus Bandyke, who went by the name of Ted. He was the oldest of ten children and had been in the seminary on the east coast before deciding that he wanted a different path in life. Ted returned home and started working at a meat processing company downtown. Helen admits she wasn’t fond of him at first because she didn’t care for the hat he was wearing. But as fate would have it, the two started dating despite a ten-year age difference.
Every day, Helen chose to take the streetcar to Cass Technical School instead of attending the school close to her house so she could receive a better education. When her street car would pass Ted’s building, he would be waiting outside so he could wave to her each morning. Once she was out of school, Helen started working at St. Joseph’s Retreat, a hospital in Dearborn that cared for patients with emotional issues. After three years of dating, the young couple married on November 30, 1940.
In 1943 at 33 years old, Ted was drafted into the Army for WWII. While Ted served as a switchboard operator at Fort Barry on the west coast, Helen stayed in Detroit to work and care for her father. Helen took a job at the Chrysler DeSoto factory, becoming an original “Rosie the Riveter” when she started riveting plane wings for the Navy Helldiver Bomber. The hardworking Helen started exceeding production and was told by her foreman to “slow down or take more bathroom breaks,” a comment that still aggravates her to this day. The newlyweds wrote to each other almost daily. Ted was a photographer and would send pictures of himself and Fort Barry that Helen would place in a photo album that she titled “My Soldier Husband.” Helen also made sure to bake and ship her husband her homemade cheesecake as often as possible.
Ted Bandyke was honorably discharged and returned home to his wife in October 1945, and in September 1946, they welcomed their first child, Sylvia. Their second child, Mary, arrived in 1950. In 1952 after her father’s passing, the couple moved to Dearborn, MI, to be close to her sister and even built a house on the same street. By 1954 their family was complete with the arrival of their son, Martin.
For many years Helen was a homemaker, but her love of helping people led her to a job in an optometrist’s office. She fit patients for glasses or contacts and later worked as a department manager. Helen was always happy to share her optical knowledge to help family members. The Bandyke’s were always very active in their church and community. They volunteered as chaperones for their church youth group, St. Anselm’s Teen Towners. Helen also sang in the church choir and volunteered at the Arab American Museum and the Wayne County Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
In 1983, when Helen was only 62, she lost her beloved husband, Ted. However, the independent Helen expressed to her daughters that the idea of remarrying never crossed her mind because “she had already married the best.”
Helen continued to work and volunteered into her early eighties. Her daughter Sylvia expressed, “She always had so much energy and loved being social with people.” Sylvia continued, “I don’t know where she got all of her strength, work ethic, and determination from. Maybe it was from losing her mother at such an early age because there was nobody else to take care of her but herself.” Helen’s daughter Mary expressed, “My mother’s source of strength and compassion for other people came from her beginnings as a caretaker, losing her mother at an early age and taking care of her dad.”
In 2021 Helen celebrated her 100th birthday, and the community she loved and dedicated her entire life to showed up to honor her. The Rosie the Riveter Association of Michigan came by in a Covid-safe parade to celebrate her with signs, gifts, and even a song they made up, especially for her. Of course, the media was there to record it all. The County of Wayne Michigan honored her with a formal Resolution, and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell recognized her with a speech that is now part of the Congressional Record. Helen’s daughter Sylvia talked about her time as a riveter stating, “To her, she was just doing her job. She was doing what she had to do and didn’t feel heroic for it.” Helen enjoyed her time working at the factory and made a couple of lifelong friends. Her friend Ann, whose husband was also in the service at that time, even became her oldest daughter’s godmother.
Helen has been well cared for between her children and caregivers. She still resides in the house she and Ted built in 1952. Sylvia laughed, admitting, “We have somewhat of a museum in this house, and we are all so emotionally attached to it.” Sylvia has been living with her part-time to care for Helen and the home. Mary comes over to stay with her during the day, stating, “Both of our parents had such strong family values and loyalty and instilled that in us as well.”
Helen has only been utilizing the benefit since last fall because the family was unaware it existed. Sylvia explained, “My dad was in the Army so long ago it wasn’t something we were thinking about or ever thought we would qualify for a benefit through any program, but we finally made the inquiry and were informed about Veterans Care.” Sylvia continued, “I wish we had known about this program a couple of years ago for the assistance.” Sylvia expressed her gratitude for CareSupport Medical Supply, acknowledging the quality of the products, and exclaimed, “This is the way mother should be treated with high-quality products!” Sylvia then recognized that the program had brought more of a Veteran focus to their family, and they feel even more compassion for any Veteran, young or old.
Veterans Care Coordination is proud to recognize Ted Bandyke for his service to our country and honored to acknowledge Helen Bandyke for her support, patriotism, and sacrifice to our country. We are privileged to have the opportunity to share the stories of our nation’s heroes.