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James Raymond Helle

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Helle James Raymond Helle, who founded Helle Engineering, Inc. in San Diego and Helle Engineering, Ltd In Aberdeen, Scotland, passed away on May 7, 2017 from complications of dementia and Parkinson's disease. He was 83. Jim was born in Hinsdale, Cook County, Illinois March 17, 1934 to Warren E. Helle and Dorothy Helle. Always having a strong sense of wanderlust, Jim, as a teenager spent a summer bicycling from Wisconsin south to New Orleans. Another summer adventure had him and a friend taking a small motor boat down the Mississippi River from Wisconsin to New Orleans, encountering many people and enjoying their trip. Before his senior year in high school, Jim bicycled all over Europe, visiting as many countries as he could and staying in youth hostels around the continent. He graduated in 1952 from Shorewood High School in Wisconsin. After graduation, Jim attended the University of Washington, Seattle. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Oceanography in 1956. Upon graduation, Jim entered the United States Army. He served 2 years in active duty and then four additional years in the Army Reserve. He was Honorable Discharged in September 1962. In 1959 Jim worked for Marine Advisers, specifically assigned to the Polaris Missile Project at San Clemente Island. He soon moved to Oceanic Enterprises and worked at the Marine Physical Lab at Scripps Institute of Oceanography until 1966. During this time, Jim was required to read underwater instruments and monitor any changes in the ocean. Although he originally read them by diving into the ocean, he found the temperature too cold. So, as those who knew Jim would assume, he built himself a one man submarine to dive down and read his instruments! On May 9, 1966, against the advice of his counselors and mentor, Jim left Scripps Institute of Oceanography and founded Helle Engineering, Inc. Working from his garage, he invented the many underwater communication and location devices. He eventually built a manufacturing plant in Clairemont Mesa. During this time, Jim invented the first working helium unscrambler so that divers' voices and speech can be understood by those in the ship above. He also manufactured pingers, sonar location devices to relocate areas once visited by researchers. Jim met Martha Rice Konen in the early 70's when she applied for a job at Helle Engineering. They worked as the sales team for the company, travelling to trade shows around the country. In 1977, they were married in San Diego and created the blended family of 7 children. Martha was Jim's soul mate. As the company grew and sales became international Jim and his wife, Martha, working as sales persons, travelled the world, attending trade shows and hiring agents to represent the company in many countries. Soon Jim realized that he needed to expand his operations. In October 1978 Jim founded Helle Engineering, Ltd, an additional manufacturing plant, in Aberdeen, Scotland. In addition, he bought a home there and he and Martha travelled back and forth overseeing both operations. Helle Engineering became an internationally respected underwater instrumentation company with customers ranging from firefighter Red Adair to governments throughout the world. The United States Navy was one of Jim's customers that still uses equipment that originated at Helle Engineering. In October of 1992, Jim closed Helle Engineering in San Diego, moving his operations to Scotland. In April 1994, Jim sold Helle Engineering, Ltd. A year earlier, Jim and Martha purchased their home In Julian, California. After the sale of the company, they returned to Julian and began their "retirement" years. Again, the wanderlust kicked in and soon Jim and Martha were loading up their motor home and traveling all over the United States. They even drove up the Alaskan Highway to visit their son, Doug Helle. They went through three motor homes over the years. In addition, Jim and Martha had become an important part of the Julian Community. When Julian needed a new library, Jim donated generously to the building fund. When the Women's' Club needed work done on their Clubhouse, Jim and Martha took care of it. Jim was very generous in his donations to the Methodist Churches in Unionville Center, Ohio, Prescott, Arizona and Julian California. He was also a supporter of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Jim loved to eat out so he frequented Julian restaurants. Every restaurant they visited had a reserved parking space for them! Jim and Martha loved to entertain. Jim hosted many parties at their home in Julian. Everyone would come over for potluck dinners, catered events, theme parties..any excuse for everyone to get together! Christmastime was a wonderful time for Jim as all the grandchildren would visit. He would spend special times with each, making wood animals in his woodshop in the barn, riding motorcycles or target shooting on their property. Jim made everyone feel special. Unfortunately, in the October 2003 fire, Jim and Martha's home in Julian was destroyed. Devastated at their loss, they moved to Prescott, Arizona, where Jim lived at the time of his passing. Jim is survived by his wife, Martha Rice Konen Helle; and his son and his wife, Doug and Annette Helle of Kasiloff, Alaska. In addition, he is survived by his stepchildren, Deborah and Steve Harvey of St. Clair Shores, MI, David and Susan Konen of San Diego, CA, Xema Jacobson and Johnny Simpson of Spring Valley, California and Sheila Konen and Joe Gunther of North Las Vegas, NV; nine grandchildren; and five great grandchildren. Jim was preceded in death by his first wife Dr. Loretta Helle, his son Jay Helle and stepson Jacob Konen III. Family will receive friends 2-4 and 6-8 pm Friday, May 19, 2017 at FERGUSON FUNERAL HOME, 202 E. Main St., (Rt. 161W) Plain City, Ohio, where the funeral will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, May 20, 2017 with Pastor Phil Conrad officiating and burial Darby Township Cemetery, Unionville Center. Union County Honor Guard conducting Full Military Services.


Published in The Columbus Dispatch on May 15, 2017
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