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Dr. William F. Helmer

Obituary Condolences

Dr. William F.
William F. Helmer, 87, of Skyline Drive, Morrisville, passed away on July 10, 2014, surrounded by his loving family. He was born on November 12, 1926, in Oneida, NY, at the original Broad Street Hospital, the son of Floyd Nelson Helmer and Helen Ottaway Helmer, and spent his early years in Oneida Castle. A 1944 graduate of Oneida High School, Bill earned an A.A.S. in Auto Mechanics at Morrisville Agricultural & Technical Institute (now Morrisville State College) and a B.A. at the New York State College for Teachers at Albany. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Old English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. After a courtship of five years, on August 27, 1955, Bill married Joan E. Smith at St. Patricks Church in Oneida, and they were almost inseparable ever after. He was a devoted family man who liked nothing more than spending time with his loved ones. He lost his beloved wife and best friend, Joan, on January 17, 2010. Bill had a lifelong fascination with railroading and wrote two railroad histories: O&W: The Long Life and Slow Death of the New York, Ontario & Western Railway (1959), considered a classic in the genre, and Rip Van Winkle Railroads (1970), deemed to be a definitive history of railroading in the northern Catskills. More recently, Bill was featured in the new documentary, Rails to the Catskills. For several years, he was the Morrisville correspondent for the Mid-York Weekly newspaper. He was also a contributor to The Encyclopedia of New York State and the local histories, Country Roads and Country Roads Revisited. He had an extraordinary level of knowledge about Upstate New York history and his Helmer ancestors who settled in the Mohawk Valley in the early 1700s. Bill taught English in the Stockbridge Valley and Whitesboro Central Schools before accepting a position at what was then Morrisville Agricultural and Technical Institute (which became Morrisville State College). Dr. Helmer retired in 1985 after serving the College for thirty years, first as an English Professor and for the last twelve years he was the Dean of the Liberal Arts Division. Bill was active in community affairs, as the first leader of the Madison Hall Association, the Morrisville Improvement Committee, and the Morrisville Historic Preservation Commission. He also served on the Boards of the Morrisville Library, the Mid-York Foundation, and was the Morrisville Village Historian for many years. He also was an usher and served on the Parish Council at St. Joan of Arc Roman Catholic Church for several years. He was an ardent supporter of environmental causes and a tireless advocate for historical preservation. During World War II, Bill served as a heavy equipment mechanic with the U.S. Army 748th Engineer Depot Company in Manila and the 410th Engineer Construction Battalion at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, and during the Korean War, he was a member of the 984th Engineer Field Maintenance Company. He was awarded several military honors and received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in Korea. Bill was a proud father and is survived by his adored children: William S. (Maureen) of Delmar; Stephen (Susan) of Manlius; Mary Claire of Morrisville and Guilderland; and Michael (Lori) of Summit, New Jersey. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Billy, Katie and Elizabeth, of Delmar, John (Jackie), Maura, Caroline and Meggie, of Manlius, and Annie, Michael, Jr., Grace Catherine, Andrew, Christopher, Daniel, Mary, Grace Elizabeth and Sean, of Summit; his sister, Barbara Sanderson, of Sherrill; brother, Daniel Helmer and wife, Patricia, of Bel Air, Maryland; sister-in-law, Phyllis King, of Oneida Castle; a very special niece, Christine Calogero, her husband, Michael, and children, Matthew and Clare; and many other devoted nieces, nephews and cousins. He was predeceased by a daughter-in-law, Eileen Kenny Helmer, in 2006, and by a special nephew, John J. King, in 1995. Funeral services were held Wednesday, July 16, from Campbell-Dean Funeral Home, Inc., 260 Main Street, Oneida, and from St. Patricks Church. Interment was made in St. Patricks Cemetery. Friends called Monday at St. Joan of Arcs Church, Morrisville, and Tuesday, at the Campbell-Dean Funeral Home. Contributions in Bills memory may be made to SEVAC Ambulance Corps, Box 1030, Morrisville, NY 13408 or Madison Hall Association, P.O. Box 115, Morrisville, NY 13408. Envelopes for these funds may be obtained at the funeral home. To leave a message of condolence, please visit: www.campbell-dean.com
Published in The Observer-Dispatch on July 24, 2014
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