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Dolly disliked charity

87-year-old's body found submerged in well

Published: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 7:23 a.m. CDT
Photo providedIn this 2012 photo, Adeline "Dolly" Helwig (center) is with her friends and neighbors, Nancy Ericksen and Ann Marie Pokorny. Last month, the two searched for Helwig in her house and could not find her. They called authorities, who discovered Helwig submerged in water in her pumphouse.
Photo providedAdeline "Dolly" Helwig at 16.
David Giuliani - dgiuliani@shawmedia.comAdeline "Dolly" Helwig, whose body was recently found in her pumphouse, lived at this house on Arcade Drive in Lake Villa for decades. She was known for keeping a well-kept yard.

LAKE VILLA – Around her neighborhood, few knew 87-year-old Adeline Helwig's formal first name. They called her Dolly.

They described her as active and determined, at times stubborn. She lived in her white house at 25731 W. Arcade Drive since the 1950s, a little more than a block away from Fox Lake.

Apparently, she visited her pumphouse quite a bit. It's believed that she was having trouble getting water. So she would go into the shed behind her house and scoop up what she needed, one friend said.

She was last seen about 3 p.m. May 23, authorities say.

Nancy Ericksen, who has lived on the shore of Fox Lake for decades, was a friend of Dolly's. On May 27, another friend, Ann Marie Pokorny, called her saying that she couldn't find Dolly.

"We went into the house and searched every nook and cranny," Ericksen said.

They even checked the pumphouse. No sign of Dolly.

At wit's end, they called the Lake County Sheriff's Department, which brought in a canine unit.

A detective got onto his knees to look into the water in the pumphouse, which is how he found Dolly's submerged body, Ericksen said. An autopsy determined that Dolly died of a heart attack.

"I'm just glad neither of us found her," Ericksen said.

Ericksen, whose husband died a year ago, said they started going to their vacation house in the 1950s and that they moved there permanently in 1977. She has known Dolly for years.

"She took care of her parents, her aunt, my mother. She took care of everybody but herself," Ericksen said.

Dolly was never married and had no children. Her relatives, Ericksen said, lived in Iowa and attended the memorial service.

"Her yard and her garden were her life," Ericksen said.

Mike Doolittle, who lived across the street from Dolly, agreed.

"She was a very active woman. She did her own yard. She used an electric lawnmower," he said.

On May 23, Doolittle said, his daughter saw Dolly, who didn't drive, being taken back home by a neighbor. Dolly carried in a jug of milk, by his daughter's account, then walked into the shed that apparently contained the well.

"I always saw her go in there," Doolittle said. "I didn't know it was a pumphouse. I thought she was getting rakes or something."

Dolly, he said, preferred being self-reliant.

"When I shoveled her driveway, she would yell at me. She wanted to do it herself," he said. "I have an ATV with a plow. I would come by to plow the heavy stuff, and she would do the rest."

About a year ago, Doolittle said, neighbors put an air conditioning unit in one of Dolly's windows. She never used it, he said, not wanting to accept charity from others.

Ericksen said Dolly claimed the unit was too loud, which Ericksen said was ironic, given that Dolly was hard of hearing.

Looking across the street more than a week after Dolly's death, Doolittle pointed out how well-groomed her yard was.

"This is all hers," he said. "If she were still alive, she'd probably be cutting back her bushes this weekend. She was a fantastic woman."

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