Andrel K. Helms departed this life on June 13, 2013, from complications of a stroke. He was preceded in death by his parents, Raymond Earl and Mary Starnes Helms; and his sister, Margie Tyson. |
He was born April 22, 1934 in Lancaster County, S.C. Surviving are his devoted wife, Rosemary, as well as his faithful brother, retired Navy Capt. Raymond E. Helms Jr., as well as several nieces, nephews and in-laws.
Andy led a very interesting and productive life. After graduating from Clemson University and the Institute of Textile Technology with a master's degree in Textile Engineering, he entered the Air Force, where he learned to fly and navigate the military aircraft of the day. After active duty, he continued reserve duty for 17 years, flying out of Andrews Air Force Base until he retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1980.
He attended the Air Force Command Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, receiving a diploma in National Security Management. During his 20 year career, he received several commendation awards and ribbons for his faithful service.
Andy had a long career with Dow Chemical, Dow Badische, and BASF in Williamsburg. He rose from textile engineer to Product Group Director for synthetic fibers and yarns. In 1986, he retired and made a personal pledge to visit areas of the world he had not yet seen.
Over his adult years, he visited every country in the world, over 200, and all seven continents. It was a truly unusual and remarkable feat that required tenacity, elements of danger and guile. As larger countries formed by war treaties broke into smaller ones, he went back to visit those, too.
Rosemary enjoyed travel and was along for most of the adventures. Andy's distinguished bearing and western hats always drew attention and often elicited a "Hello, John Wayne." from locals.
Duplicate bridge was another passion. Andy played in many tournaments locally and throughout the U.S. and Canada with his long-term bridge partner, Dianne Morton. He achieved Silver Life Master and never lost his love of the game.
Andy's last two months of life were spent with special people who did their utmost to help him. He was very grateful to the doctors, nursing staff and therapists at Sentara Williamsburg, Second North and South; Riverside Rehabilitation Institute; and Woodhaven Hall at Williamsburg Landing, which cared for him until his last moments of life.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 22 at Nelsen Funeral Home, 3785 Strawberry Plains Rd., Williamsburg, with interment following at Cedar Grove Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, Andy requested that donations be made to independencefund.org, which provides all-terrain track wheelchairs to veteran amputees so they may enjoy the great outdoors, or to woundedwarriorproject.com.
Published in Virginia Gazette from June 17 to July 16, 2013