Helen (Towler) Bardo

Helen Bardo
Helen Bardo

Helen Bardo received the
Helen Bardo received the "Valiant Woman of Wyoming" award from the Wyoming Church Women United, 1985.

Helen Towler Bardo
Helen Towler Bardo

Gravestone photos courtesy of the Joshua Brackett Eagle Scout Project
Gravestone photos courtesy of the Joshua Brackett Eagle Scout Project

(November 5, 1910 - April 7, 2000)

The Lusk Herald
April, 2000

Helen Towler Bardo

Helen Towler Bardo was born November 5, 1910 at Richfield, Minn., to George H. and Mary Shepard Towler. She graduated in 1928 from Washburn High School in Minneapolis, and attended the University of Minnesota, majoring in piano. After working at Northwest National Bank for six years, she married Dale Marine Bardo October 10, 1936.

To them were born two children, Susan and Richard. The Bardos, before moving to Lusk in 1948, where Mr. Bardo joined The Lusk Herald, lived in Wahoo, Neb.; Toledo and Garner, Iowa, and Plentywood, Mont., where Mr. Bardo managed the Plentywood Herald.

Helen was active in church work in each town, particularly in vocal music. She organized and directed church choirs. In Garner, the Methodist Church choir presented a special service at the Bandshell, signifying the end of World War II. Members of the choir gathered from farms and the theater, streaming to the Bandshell for this memorable event. The choir with great spirit sang "The Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah.

Helen was always a member of the local branch of the General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC). In Toledo, she was the pianist in the Little Symphony.

Helen was a superb pianist. She accompanied countless members of Niobrara County students at music festivals and recitals, and did piano performing of her own. She was organist for weddings and funerals, and she taught piano lessons. She was very interested in vocal music; she organized and directed choirs at the Lusk Congregational Church (both children and adults), community choruses and a chorus at the Niobrara Nursing Home. In the Lusk church, her choir at its' greatest, membership consisted of 40 robed members.

This choir was well-known around the state. It presented seasonal concerts, in addition to singing at the church services. Helen was a 50-year member of the Lusk Women's Club, and held many offices, including the recycled presidency. She initiated many projects among them the brochure "A Woman Talks to Women about Lusk, Wyoming". The brochure, which was syndicated throughout the country, caused a considerable amount of publicity. Helen and the Lusk Chamber of Commerce received many responses to the brochure, which was advertised by the Wyoming Travel Commission. The two-color brochure extolled the good things about Lusk and its assets, and was directed primarily to women.

Helen and the Club also worked to establish the Dona Eddy Memorial Library Fund, which benefited the Niobrara County Library addition, for access for handicapped people. At the Wyoming state level of GFWC she held various chairmanships and edited the "Clubwoman" for eight years.

Working with the Lusk Woman's Club and the Wyoming Federation of Women's Clubs, Helen spearheaded efforts in the Wyoming Legislature to make Wyoming public buildings, street, and sidewalks accessible for handicapped persons. Two laws were passed, the first in 1969, requiring public building to have features and facilities for the physically impaired, and the second in 1975, mandating elevators in public buildings and accessible curbs and sidewalks.

Samuel M. Thomas, a World War II paraplegic friend, and Helen worked together on much of the architectural barriers activity. Sam was named in 1970 the Wyoming Handicapped Citizen of the year, by the Governor's Committee for the Employment of the Handicapped. Fighting steps was the purpose of the unique display built by Sam in promotion of barrier free legislation. The display was taken by Helen to the Wyoming State Fair in 1968; to Denver in 1973 to the GFWC convention, and to Chicago in 1972 to the convention of the National Easter Seal Society, where Helen was a Wyoming Easter Seal delegate. The display was the centerpiece of a comprehensive study of the architectural barriers laws of the 50 states and Washington, D. C. She had written to obtain these laws, and together with the display, the exhibit was so extensive that she had to obtain the space of two booths. In 1971, she was a delegate to the Easter Seal Convention in Portland. In 1973, taking the display and the 50 state laws, Helen was a delegate to the national convention of the President's Committee of the Employment of the Handicapped, in Washington, D.C.

Helen was appointed to the Wyoming Easter Seal Board for 8 years; the Governor's Committee for Employment of the Handicapped for 19 years (she was appointed by and served Governor Stan Hathaway from 1968-1975; Governor Ed Herschler from 1975-1987; and Governor Mike Sullivan in 1987); the Wyoming Council on Vocational Rehabilitation for six years; and Governor Ed Herschler's Task Force for Section 504 of the national Rehabilitation Law, for four years. The latter was the first federal civil rights law to protect the rights of handicapped persons.

As a result of her barrier-free work, she received many awards and honors. The Governor's Committee for Employment of the Handicapped in 1969 awarded her its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award. She received two Citations for Meritorious Service, also from the Governor's Committee, the first in 1973 and the second in 1985. Also in 1985 she received the Valiant Woman Award from Wyoming Church Women United, having served the Lusk group in many capacities.

In the summer of 1994, Helen was honored in "Timeless Pioneers," published by the Women's Activities Communications Division, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). "Timeless Pioneers" said, "Helen Bardo of Lusk, Wyoming, toiled for many years for the elimination of architectural barriers that prevent those in wheelchairs or with physical limitations of any kind, including the elderly, from easy access to buildings in Wyoming in 1966, when there was very little general awareness of access problems." It was Helen Bardo's drive, determination and salesmanship that were responsible for the 1969 passage by the 40th Wyoming Legislature of an act requiring that all public buildings constructed in the state of Wyoming for public use contain certain features and facilities for the physically impaired. To accomplish this feat, Mrs. Bardo secured many prominent citizens of the state as sponsors of this bill, worked with the Lusk Women's Club and Wyoming Federation of Women's Clubs, tirelessly wrote letters, and made numerous personal contacts. We pay special tribute to this truly timeless pioneer for her extraordinary contribution on behalf of the disabled and for the model she has provided of organized volunteer community service.

In more recent years, Helen was nominated to the Community Service Division of the Citizen of the Century award, by the American Heritage Center. Both Mr. and Mrs. Bardo were included in the Lusk Herald publication of "Movers and Shakers of the 20th Century", nominated by the Lusk Herald staff. In April 1993, the Niobrara Chamber of Commerce presented to Helen the Civic Leader Citizen of the Month award.

In 1993 a book entitled "Mrs. Barriers," written by Mr. Bardo, told the barriers story of his wife Helen. It was written not as a biography, but as a documented story because Helen Bardo deserves a place in Wyoming history.

She is survived by Dale M. Bardo, her husband of 63 years, one sister Jane (Mrs. Gerald) Bardo of Lusk; daughter Susan (Mrs. John) Hilbert of Porterville, Calif; son, Richard D. Bardo of Adelphi, Md.; two grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brother John and by sisters Alice Lee and Margaret.

Mrs. Bardo passed away on Friday morning at the Niobrara Memorial Hospital in Lusk. Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday, April 13 at 2 p.m. at the Congregational Church in Lusk, with Pastor Don Chanslor and Pastor Helen Oates officiating.

Memorials may be made to the donor's choice.

Interment will follow in the Lusk Cemetery.

Cicmanec-Pier Funeral Home of Lusk is in charge of funeral arrangements.

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