Helga Schenk

Obituary of Helga Maria Schenk

Helga Maria Schenk (nee Feldhorst) passed peacefully in her sleep at home on 20 April 2024.  She was born in Bangkok, Thailand on 4 September 1950 to Hans and Adelheid (nee Eschke) Feldhorst.  Hans had been a panzer commander in World War II and joined the French Foreign Legion and was stationed in Indochina after the war.  After leaving the Legion he moved to Bangkok where he met Helga’s mother.  Her mother had been born in Berastagi, Sumatra, Indonesia where her German father ran a hill station and had married a Dutch-Indonesian girl.  In 1926 the family moved to Bangkok where he founded the Bangkok Sausage Company.  Helga grew up in the family compound in Bangkok and attended Holy Redeemer International School for grades 1 through 12.  As a result of this background, she was multilingual, speaking native fluency English, Thai and German as well as a smattering of Dutch, French and Indonesian.  Upon leaving school she went to work for Thai Airways International, initially as administrative assistant to the Chief of Air Hostesses and later for the Chief Pilot.  It was during this period she met her future husband, Richard Schenk who was stationed in Bangkok with the US Air Force.  The were married on 19 February 1972.  They relocated to Grand Forks, ND later that year but returned to Thailand in July 1974.  They remained there until 1977 when her husband was transferred to Northern Virginia.  They bought a home in Stafford where they remained until 1981 when they were transferred to Lindsey Air Station in Wiesbaden, Germany.  She greatly enjoyed this European stay.  Not only did it give her the opportunity to travel widely throughout Germany and its neighboring countries, but also allowed her to reconnect with her father’s side of the family, including her beloved grandmother who lived in Velbert, Germany.  In late summer 1984 her husband retired from the Air Force and the family relocated again to Northern Virginia and purchased their current home in Annandale.  Since the children were now mostly grown, Helga decided to return to work.  Her first job was as a Civilian Personnel Specialist at Ft. Myer, and later as Technical Editor at the Washington Navy Yard in DC.  In 1994 Richard again accepted an assignment to the American Embassy in Bangkok.  Helga accepted a position in the Civilian Personnel office at the Embassy but, due to her fluency in the Thai language, she was often seconded to the front office to provide support to the Ambassador and DCM.  In 1999 the family returned to their home in Annandale where Helga helped raise her new granddaughter, Emily.  In 2007, she received the first of several devastating health diagnoses.  She had phase 4 glioblastoma brain cancer.  Even with surgery, radiation and chemo, the doctors gave her a maximum of 13 months to live.  A year later she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer.  Despite this, she seemed to largely recover and live a normal life until about 2012 when she had a massive stroke which left her paralyzed on her left side and unable to speak. She never really recovered from this setback which left her immune system severely compromised, but she fought on.  She was hospitalized a number of times, and even released on hospice care, but, somehow always recovered.  On 20 April, she finally lost the good fight. She is survived by her husband Richard Schenk, her son Craig of Franklin, SC, her daughter Tracy Schlottman and son-in-law Robert Schlottman, granddaughters Emily Wamsley, Dale Schlottman, and Holly Schlottman, all of Annandale, VA. Besides her family, Helga’s first loves were her dogs Cindy, Kelly, and Sally to whom she was absolutely devoted. Interment will take place at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, August 19th, 2024 at 1:00pm.

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Graveside Service

1:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Monday, August 19, 2024
Arlington National Cemetery
1 Memorial Drive
Arlington, Virginia, United States
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