“Mom, I’m calling to thank you.”

“Thank me for what?”

“I got the job that I was interviewing for. The interviewers took the final four candidates out for supper. They called me the next day to tell me I got the job. They said that the final decision to hire me was made because I had such wonderful table manners, and they asked me where I learned them. I said from my House Mother at Delta Upsilon.”

That exchange between a brother of Delta Upsilon and Helen Heen was one of the most impactful memories she had of the North Dakota Chapter.

“My first interaction with DU was at the Homecoming Dance 1990, my son, Brother Bret Wifall (‘94), asked me to come along. Prior to this experience I thought that fraternities were full of rich, spoiled jerks and drunks. When I saw the brotherhood and camaraderie that the men of Delta Upsilon exhibited, I knew this was a different type of fraternity.”

How did Helen come to be the House Mother of the North Dakota Chapter? “It was really an organic process”, recalled Jeff Burke (’93). “After Bret became a member, we noticed that Helen was present at many of our events. Quite a few brothers took a liking to her. She was very easy to converse with and she genuinely seemed interested in what was going on in our lives. I know many of the men would seek her out for advice. At the time, we did not have a House Mother and someone suggested Helen. We offered her the position, she accepted and the rest is DU history.”

Helen came to recognize the worth of fraternities, specifically DU. Helen appreciated the values of Delta Upsilon; Justice, Friendship, Character, Liberal Culture and furthermore envisioned how she could use her role as house mother to promote these ideals. “What I taught the men is to respect all of those around you, men, and women and to especially remember to respect yourself and always carry yourself in the best possible manner.”

Helen took her role seriously and made sure she was available for important DU functions. “I was there every Monday night to set up for the meal. I would go to the house and make sure it was clean and presentable for formal events. I did enjoy giving the etiquette class to the new members. But probably my favorite role was to listen to the brothers who wanted to talk or needed advice. I remember one Monday night when I spent it in the stairwell listening to one of the brothers about a tough time he was having. He was dealing with a relationship break up. It’s important for a mom to listen and be there for her sons.” Another motherly act was to always be the last one to leave the event site when DU had a formal dance, etc. There was always a jacket, ties, women’s purses, a random shoe to pick up and bring to the following Monday night meeting for return to the proper owner.

Mom does have some memories from DU that will last a lifetime. She did meet the original house mom, Mrs. Uhas, on one occasion. “She asked me with a smile if I was old enough to be a house mom for all these young men. I answered her with, “I’m certainly going to find out!”. Helen and her husband, Earl had a special relationship with many of the brothers; to the point that they were the target of several jokes and pranks. “One night Earl and I noticed cars stopping randomly in front of our home. When we went outside to check it out, it seems the boys put a temporary stop sign on the street!” She also recalled how she would collect duck replicas and paraphernalia. “It was common for brothers to come by and take a duck. They would always give them back, though”.

Some memories were fun; like the Super Bowl parties she would host in her home. Others were more somber; “I hosted a reception at my home after the funeral of brother Mike Hillman.” She is also very appreciative of the multitude of DUs who were present for her husband, Earl’s, funeral years later. “Brian Strom, Sam Wheeldon, and BJ Austin sang at the celebration of life.”

Helen does admit that she can’t quite remember all the names of the DUs that she had met over the years, but for some reason she can recall quite a few nicknames. The list is posted below.

  • John Woutat – Hooter
  • Derek Gingery – Boomer
  • John Braun – Johnny Wishbone
  • Dave Augdahl – Auggie
  • Paul Thibedeaux – Tibbs
  • Jeff Nelson – Nelly
  • Paul Kuhlman – PK
  • Jared Nyquist – Nike (like Mike)
  • Steve Middleton – Mids
  • Derrick Johnson – DJ or DPJ
  • Aaron Fjestad – Fajita, Fiesta, or Meathead
  • Jason Welles – Wellesy
  • John Welles – Lil Wellesy
  • David Sage – Smokey
  • Kyle Knutson – K-Nut or Squirrel
  • Mark Moenich – Munch Munch
  • Kevin Macrae – Canada
  • Ben Hershey – Mini Me or Hersh
  • Ben Helleckson – Moose
  • Chris Mickelson – Gov
  • Jeremy Swanson – Swanny
  • Dean Dahlen – Deno
  • Bob Smette – Smette
  • Brian Sandvig – Vig
  • Rob Corey – Party Rob
  • Jason Post – Posty
  • Nate Laframboise – Farm Boy
  • Scott Pegues – Tscott, Peaches, Personal Jesus and Scotty
  • Wayne Mack – Cecil
  • Sam Wheeldon – Sammy
  • Scott Larsen – Ogre
  • Matt Bintliff – MD
  • John Balintona – Bubbs

Written by: John Balintona ‘92