Helmut Lemke retired from farming and working with large machines and over-sized engines only to find his passion was working with intricately designed dollhouses.
The structures, all 11 of them, were crafted by Lemke over the course of 12 years before his health prevented him from continuing. He died in 2008.
“I was always proud of my dad but I was so amazed to see his creativity and the fact that he was a builder like that,” said Helmut’s daughter Joanne Lemke.
Helmut’s wife Marion Lemke and two daughters, Joanne and Cheryl Brown made the decision earlier this year to donate four of the houses to the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation.
“It’s a very difficult decision but we can’t keep them all and we discussed a lot about where the houses could go and where they would benefit people the most and what would honour dad the best,” said Marion.
The Health Foundation will be given the houses to do with as they see fit.
“We are so pleased to partner with the Health Foundation to support them. Dad did require a lot of help in his final years and we are grateful that the care was provided to him,” said Joanne.
Marion said that the money raised from the houses, whether they are auctioned off or sold, will be a wonderful addition to the funds raised by the Health Foundation to bring new technology to the area.
“I’m sure this could affect pretty much anyone in the Central Alberta area,” said Marion.
The four houses being donated are all unique in their own ways. One of them is an old TV cabinet converted to contain sections representing the rooms seen in a home.
One of the other houses is a memorable house for the family as it was Helmut’s first attempt at wiring for electricity.
“Each house was a new stage. After wiring mine, the next challenge was wiring for ceiling lights and then once he mastered that he said ‘let’s put outside lights on the porch’,” said Cheryl.
Marion still keeps in touch with some of the friends made through the dollhouse building community and laughs at the memory of Helmut being the ‘handyman’ on call for many of the women involved in that group.
“It was much like us girls growing up they knew that dad would be there to help them if they needed it,” said Cheryl.
Helmut built the houses but Marion frequently took part designing bedspreads, rugs, stair runners, curtains or helping with painting and odd jobs around the ‘house.’
“There are so many memories with all of the houses. To look in that room and see dad working away totally absorbed and enjoying what he was doing is a memory that will last,” said Cheryl.
The houses can be seen during the annual Festival of Trees and a decision will be made in the coming months as to how the Health Foundation will proceed with them after that.
“The lasting legacy is what made this decision to donate them so very right for us. It will do so much good and allow dad’s memory to live on,” said Joanne. “The Health Foundation has been really excited and happy about the concept and we’re happy about it too.”