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Helga Kuster passed away peacefully on Saturday, October 14, surrounded by her family. Her life was filled with blessings, and God used her to touch the lives and hearts of many. Her final days were filled with hymns, prayers, and Scripture readings.
“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Helga Marie Teigen was born July 9, 1940 to Torald and Olivia (Tjernagel) Teigen in Hillsboro, ND, the second (by minutes) of seven children. She attended Washington High School in Sioux Falls, SD, where she stood out as a flutist, scholar, and athlete, and graduated from Bethany Lutheran High School in Mankato, MN in 1959.
Helga married Theodore Kuster, a son of Rev. Arnold V. Kuster and Leona Kuster, in Minneapolis in 1960. Their daughter Johanna was born in 1961. Later that year Ted took his first pastoral call to St. Paul's Lutheran Church in inner-city Chicago, where they welcomed three more children: Theodore (1963), Nathaniel (1964) and Andrea (1966).
In 1968, when Ted was called to be a missionary in Lima, Peru, Helga quickly became fluent in Spanish and used her flute, guitar and voice to boost church and school activities. She took an active role in caring for local families, teaching children, and organizing women’s cooperative kitchens and nutrition groups. This work set the pattern for the rest of her professional life. Helga loved the people, the Andes foothills, and the Pacific Ocean beaches. A fifth child, Nicolasa, was born in Lima in 1970.
From 1972 to 1978, Helga taught music and advanced her flute studies in San Jose, Costa Rica, and Managua, Nicaragua, while Ted served as a missionary to several Central American countries. Helga performed periodically with the Costa Rican National Symphony Orchestra during this time. A sixth child, Karen Alma, was born in Managua in 1974.
Helga earned her Bachelor of Music in Flute Performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1982. That year Ted accepted a missionary call to Panama. Helga and Ted helped start an international school and a music camp that trained young Panamanian orchestral players without regard to financial ability. With her daughter Nicolasa, Helga launched the Oberlin Panama Project, which for 30 years brought Oberlin music students to work with Panamanian students and professors.
In 1993 Helga and Ted moved to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where Ted was assigned to mentor the nascent Kazakh Lutheran church. Helga became fluent in both Kazakh and Russian and developed a hymnbook with liturgy, hymns and prayers in Russian, Kazakh, and English. She translated a book on Kazakh folk music and completed the research to earn her master’s degree from the University of Minnesota.
In 1999 Helga and Ted were called to serve a year in Accra, Ghana, followed by a similar year-long assignment in Belvedere, MN. On their return to Kazakhstan in 2001, Helga taught music at the International School of Almaty.
Helga and Ted retired in 2005 and began splitting their time between Minneapolis and Albuquerque. Helga maintained an active musical life with St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Albuquerque, Iglesia Luterana Cristo El Redentor in St. Paul, and the Flute Cocktail ensemble and the Choral Society at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Minneapolis, until the advance of Alzheimer’s disease forced her to slow down. She spent her last years at home under the loving care of her husband Ted and daughter Johanna, and in the excellent memory care unit at Yorkshire of Edina, to whose staff the family is deeply grateful.
Helga loved and was loved by her husband of 64 years, Rev. Ted Kuster, and her six children: Johanna Krueger (& Luther Krueger), Ted Kuster, Nathaniel Kuster (& Norma Zegobia), Andrea Kuster (& Paul Lyons), Nicolasa Kuster (& Robert Bottorff), and Karen Alma Arnold (& Al Arnold). She delighted in her 11 grandchildren, in whom she instilled a lifelong love of music: Kai Lyons-Kuster, Laura Jue, Jack Arnold (& Kaitlyn Arnold), Oliver Lyons-Kuster, Lillian Jue, Lana Arnold, Frank Arnold, Rick Arnold, Andrew Gabriel Kuster Zegobia, Juan de Dios Kuster Zegobia, and Leona Bottorff-Kuster.
Helga also cherished her siblings, Rev. Erling Teigen, Martha Teigen, Carolyn Fasel, twins Rev. Martin Teigen and Laura Johnson, and Anna Teigen, and her close cousins Barbara Kudirka, David Teigen, Norman Teigen, and Philip Teigen.
Services will be held at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, 674 Johnson Parkway, St. Paul, MN, on Monday, October 23, 2023 at 11:00 am. Visitation begins at 10:00 am. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be directed to St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Albuquerque, NM, using the Donate link at https://saintandrewlutheran.church.