O’Rourke & O’Rourke
Inc. Funeral Home

25 River Street
Salamanca, NY 14779
phone: (716) 945-4760
fax: (716) 945-4222

Helen M. Bierfeldt

With family at her side, Helen M. Bierfeldt, 98, of Pimlico Avenue, Salamanca, died on October 4, 2017 in Olean General Hospital.

Born July 10, 1919 in Youngstown, Ohio, she was the daughter of Peter and Mary (Sajatovic) Horvath. Raised in Kent, Ohio, Helen was the valedictorian of Kent’s Theodore Roosevelt High School class of 1937. In 1940, she graduated from St. Vincent Charity Hospital School of Nursing in Cleveland.

In 1941, the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Helen volunteered for service in the US Army Nurse Corps. She assigned to Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, where she served as an operating room nurse and taught surgical procedures to medical technicians. She was later transferred to Camp Bowie, Texas and assigned to the 12th Field Hospital.

On June 29, 1944, her unit landed on Omaha Beach, proceeded to Cherbourg and set up a hospital in the partially destroyed Louis Pasteur Hospital. The 12th Field Hospital followed the 1st US Army from Cherbourg to Belgium setting up hospitals along the way in various French cities. They continued their trek from Belgium to Germany and back.

When the German Army made a breakthrough in the Battle of the Bulge, Helen was part of a surgical team of six sent to Ciney to treat casualties. But after three days, the team had to be evacuated as the battle neared the hospital.

She was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in 1945. Helen participated in five campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe. She received the EAME Theatre Ribbon with one silver battle star and four O/S Service Bars.

In August 1945, she married Staff Sgt. Leonard Bierfeldt, a native of Salamanca, in Reims Cathedral, France, who predeceased her in 2001. She was honorably discharged from the service in January 1946.

Following the war, she came to Salamanca and continued her nursing career, first working as a private duty nurse. She then worked from the Salamanca District Hospital as a floor nurse in the Academy Street hospital, often walking to work. When the Parkway Drive hospital opened, she worked as an operating room and emergency room nurse. The location of the new hospital forced her to eventually get a driver’s license.

Helen served as the hospital’s community coordinator for disasters and directed the hospital on the south side of the river, during the flood of 1972. Before the existence of EMTs, she taught medical procedures to ambulance drivers.

She was an active member of the former Holy Cross Church, now Our Lady of Peace, since her arrival in Salamanca in 1946. She organized the first Brownie and Girl Scout troops in Holy Cross School. She chaired the Catholic Charities campaign for a number of years and was a church lector.

Helen was an avid fan of Cleveland Indians baseball, Notre Dame football, and St. Bonaventure basketball. She was a member of the Ohio and New York State Nursing Associations, AARP, and retired Hospital Personnel group. Helen was a charter member of WIMSA (Women in Military Service to America).

She used her sewing talents, as a member of Sew Many Quilt Club, to make lap quilts for the nursing home veteran’s hospital; made teddy bears for Roswell hospital and knitted caps for US soldiers in Iraq. In 2008, Helen was honored as the Salamanca Silver Belle, recognizing her contributions to the City of Salamanca.

Helen is survived by her daughter Betsy and her favorite son-in-law and chauffeur Dave Mills; her sister-in-law, Ethelyn Fitzsimmons of Mantua, Ohio, and several nieces, nephews, and cousins. She was predeceased by two sisters and two brothers, all in Ohio, and by her son, Peter.

Friends may call at the O’Rourke & O’Rourke Inc Funeral Home, 25 River Street, Salamanca, NY on Sunday, October 8, 2017 from 3 – 7 p.m.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held in Our Lady of Peace Parish on Monday at 11:30 a.m. with Rev. Peter Napierkowski, pastor, as celebrant.

Full military honors will be conducted by members of the American Legion Hughes-Skiba Post 535, the Veterans of Foreign Wars John F. Ahrens Post 5296, and the active military honor guard.

Memorials in her name may be made to Our Lady of Peace Parish or the Salamanca Public Library.

E-condolences can be sent to john@orourke-orourke.com or posted to facebook.com/onofh.