Helen Ruth Pustmueller

helen pustmueller

Helen Pustmueller was born Helen Ruth Ward in Gilman, Iowa on April 26, 1913. She passed peacefully on August 9, 2013 in Englewood, Colorado, having recently celebrated her 100th birthday. Helen's father moved the family to California where he practiced medicine. Her father was fascinated by flight, and often took young Helen to air meets. They made a special trip to see the Graf Zeppelin when it came to Los Angeles. However, he would never go up in a small plane.

From grade six, Helen attended the Pasadena schools, then attended junior college and UCLA, where she pledged Gamma Phi Beta Sorority. She earned a degree in Bacteriology from the University of California at Berkley and worked in the Pasadena Health Department, St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange County, St. Lukes Hospital in Pasadena and the Los Angeles Health Department.

Helen married John Maxson in 1939, a Cal Tech geology professor and reserve officer in the Air Corps. John was called to active duty, so he and Helen moved to Washington D.C. John then went to Turkey with Office of Strategic Services (OSS). John was also implemental in mapping the Grand Canyon.

Helen returned to Pasadena during the war with two daughters. After the war, a third daughter was born and the family moved to Denver in 1947, where John was self-employed as a petroleum geologist.

They both learned to fly during their early years in Denver and had their own airplane. After John's death in 1966 Helen renewed her interest in flying and got her commercial certificate and instrument rating. She flew in two Powder Puff Derbies and three Angel Derbies with her friend Jan Gammel in a Comanche 250 and 260.

In 1971, Helen married Paul Pustmueller, a consulting geologist. In 1977 she earned her Master's degree in Anthropology from the University of Denver. She became Curator of Collections of the DU Museum of Anthropology in 1980 and held that position until 1996.  She also established a Museum at Gamma Phi Beta International Headquarters and was the Museum Curator for 6 years.  Helen had an avid interest in other cultures, people and objects, which led her to collect many masks, ceramics, and carvings from throughout the world during their many travels. In additon to objects, Helen loved “collecting people,” and doing mini-ethnographies as part of her travels.

Together Helen and Paul bought an airplane, and Paul learned to fly. Helen and Paul participated in fly-yourself safaris in South Africa, Botswana, Rhodesia, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, and owned a Cessna 170, 180, Turbo 206 and a Turbo Centurion. Helen was a member of the Ninety Nines, the Silver Wings Fraternity and the Colorado Pilots Association.

Helen worked as a Museum Consultant for Gamma Phi Beta Sorority IH from 1997 to 2007.

 Firm believers in the importance of education, Helen and Paul Pustmueller established endowments for scholarships at the University of Denver and Colorado School of Mines.


Together, Helen and Paul had 8 daughters, 10 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.

Memorial services will be held at the Bullock Colonial Chapel, 1375 E. Hampden Ave., Englewood, on Monday, August 12th at 12 Noon.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the charity of your choice.

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