Meet Your Neighbor: Helga Grunerud

Continuing our series of interviews with our Southern Gables neighbors, to help us get to know and appreciate each other.  When I showed up at Helga’s home I remarked, “I really didn’t need the address; Justina told me I could just go to the yard with the beautiful botanical garden.” Helga said, “Yes, I’m the Flower Lady of Flower Street.” And so she is. Before we sat down for a visit, Helga gave me a tour of her back yard too, with flowers and a vegetable garden: tomatoes, zucchini (of course), and five kinds of peppers. I noted we could skip the question about “hobbies and interests,” since that was pretty clear already.  Interviewed by Bruce McDonald.

Bruce:  Well, I always like to start by asking how long you’ve been here in the Southern Gables neighborhood.  

Helga: About 30 years. My husband and I both grew up in small communities in Washington State. Then after his service in the Air Force and college at Washington State University, before graduation we heard a speaker who was touting the tremendous economic boom out in Colorado. Lots of work, lots of opportunity. We figured we would stay for five years, get financially stable, then come back home to live and raise a family. When we first arrived I was having trouble with what I thought was altitude sickness. The doctor had a different explanation and she (the explanation) was born a few months later. And here we are.

How did you come to choose Southern Gables?  We started out not far from here, convenient to where we were working, in a small house over on the eastern edge of Lakewood. Then after a few years the time seemed right to look for a larger place. The attractiveness of the neighborhood was a plus, and the location was good, and the schools had good ratings.

What are some of the things you like most about our neighborhood?  I’m a walker. I like being close to the lake, the soccer fields where our daughter played, and lots of good places for my walks. I go about five miles a day. When our daughter was middle school age she could walk to school and sports, to go and play with her friends, and later to her lifeguarding job and we never had to worry.

How about any examples or favorite memories of neighborly experiences you’ve had here in Southern Gables?  When our daughter old enough to be home without a babysitter, our neighbors across the street would keep an eye on her comings and goings, without her necessarily knowing she had a layer of protection. So, I’d say “neighbors watching out for each other” is integral to living here. We help each other with clearing snow in the winter, and there are things like when people go on vacation the neighbors will water the plants and keep an eye on the house.

Have you seen changes over the years?  Oh yes, of course. When we came the neighborhood was already established, and we knew quite a few of the original owners. There were a lot of kids in the neighborhood, and then over the years into the 90s there were mostly empty-nesters and the older generation. Now we’ve seen more changes, bringing young families in and we’re starting to hear the sounds of kids playing again. It’s the same over in my part of the neighborhood. I like that. So do I. It’s “new energy” all around. A good thing, a natural cycle.

Helga in her lily garden

Now how about your interests — oh, we got that on the way in. Your work? Or are you retired? Yes, I retired a few years ago but I still do consulting. I run mentor-protégé programs for CDOT and the City of Denver. For most of my career I worked in association management, for an international mining association. That gave me a good background for what I do now, putting small companies in contact with larger more experienced companies to do construction work and deal with all the government paperwork. The process involves goalsetting and monitoring small businesses through the bureaucratic maze. It’s something they need, and it’s rewarding to see them be successful and grow. They sometimes call me “Mrs. Mom.”

Anything else you’d like us to know about you?  Well, I like to travel. I used to travel to South America for the mining association, and since retiring I have gone with my sisters on cruises and to visit distant family, from California to Minnesota.

How about leaving us with some words of wisdom… a favorite quote or saying?  There is one that comes to mind. “She who cannot change the very fabric of her thought will never be able to change reality, and will never, therefore, make any progress.” I really do believe that.

Contact [email protected] to nominate a candidate for the “Meet Your Neighbor” series. 

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