Helena Regehr was born to Peter Regehr and Anna Reimer Regehr on May 16, 1910 in the small Mennonite village of Marjanowka No. 5 in the Terek settlement. It was situated in what is currently known as the Russian republic of Dagestan near the west coast of the Caspian Sea. She was born in the school house where the Regehrs had set up quarters and where her father was teacher. She was raised, with her seven siblings, in a German-speaking and faith-centered home with strong community ties.
As the Communists gained power throughout Russia, the peaceful life in Mennonite villages was threatened. With the assistance of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Mennonite Central Committee of Canada, families began to plan for emigration. Helen was 15 years old when her family left Russia and boarded a ship to cross the Atlantic. They arrived in St. John’s, New Brunswick on January 24, 1926. A journey by train across Canada took them to Rosthern, Saskatchewan, where they lived for a year. In response to news about opportunities for work, they moved to Coaldale, Alberta in February of 1927.
As the Regehrs settled in Coaldale, Alberta, the first imperatives were to re-establish domestic life and to repay the CPR travel debt. The older children were unable to continue their schooling and contributed to the family labour and income. Helen, the oldest of the eight Regehr children, followed many of her peers to Vancouver where they worked as maids in wealthy British homes.
A new opportunity presented itself when the outbreak of the Second World War created an urgent need for nurses. Despite never having completed high school, Helen successfully enrolled in the School for Nurses of Essondale Mental Hospital in Essondale BC. She attended from 1944 to 1946, thriving under the demands of her studies and achieving the award for highest marks all three years.
Helen’s career as a psychiatric nurse took her to Ontario. She worked in a Toronto hospital and later in Bethesda Home for the Mentally Handicapped in Vineland where she met an orderly named John Wiebe, also a Mennonite immigrant from Russia. They were married on July 25, 1948.
John and Helen settled in Leamington, Ontario where she devoted herself to her home and her two children.
When her husband John passed away in 1971, Helen moved back to Coaldale, Alberta to help care for her aging parents. Later she moved again to Abbotsford, BC to be near her son and daughter-in-law and her two granddaughters. She lived there until her passing on May 7, 1989.