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Jim Helfrich


1930 - 2015 Obituary Condolences
Jim Helfrich Obituary
October 24, 1930 - October 2, 2015 On October 2, 2015, Jim Helfrich passed away at the age of 84. His wife Kathryn lost her best friend, his six children lost a loving father and their best supporter, and Newport Harbor High School lost its best cheerleader. James Helfrich was born on October 24, 1930 in San Fernando, CA. His parents were Albert and Claire Helfrich. In 1947 Jim graduated from Oceanside High School, where he excelled in both academics and sports. He attended Loyola University on a football scholarship and graduated in 1951 with a degree in electrical engineering. After landing a job with Douglas Aircraft working in the nascent computer simulation field, he met and fell in love with Kathryn Van Ruiten. They married in 1955, and immediately started their family. Seven years and six children later, while Jim was building his prestigious career in the tech world and moving through various companies from the west coast to New York, Kathryn was busy tending her babies and learning to adjust to new environments. In 1964 his most recent employer, Dana Laboratories, realized that Jim's incredible linguistic ability and his love of culture and art, to go along with his engineering skills, would make him the perfect choice to open up a branch in Europe. Within a few weeks Kathryn found herself bathing her six children in a bathtub in a Hapsburg estate in Bavaria. The family lived there for five years, and as Jim travelled through Europe building his company and becoming fluent in German, French, and Spanish, the children attended German schools and became fluent in the language. In 1968 the family returned to the U.S. and settled in Newport Beach, CA. Claire, the oldest, was soon ready for Newport Harbor High School, and Jim's love affair with the school began. David, Jim, Paul, Karin and Peter followed in rapid succession, and as the boys began playing sports, mostly football, and Karin became a cheerleader, Jim became the unofficial school mascot and would pace the sidelines during games, yelling support for the team, encouraging his sons to "Be a Hero," and leading the stands in cheers. He was equally supportive of his children's academic successes, bursting with pride as his daughter Claire set a school record for achievement in languages. Jim started his own business, The Helfrich Company, in 1974. From modest beginnings he built the company into a successful enterprise. He was a natural salesman, and those who knew him felt that he closed as many deals because of his ability to discuss literature, music, and good wine, as through his engineering skills. He sold his company in 1984 and retired. It was then that Jim could devote his full attention to his true passions; his family, his love of travel, his church, and his interest in learning, good books, and languages. Jim's unique skill, which family and friends will always cherish, was his ability to celebrate others. He made people feel honored and willing to share their thoughts. He could quote poetry in several languages, and loved giving guest-lectures at Newport Harbor on linguistics or the arts. As his grandchildren began playing sports he took up his cheerleading role once more, attending as many games as possible and leading the stands with his boisterous enthusiasm. Jim's departure has left a hole in the family and the community; he was an inspiration to countless people, young and old. A true renaissance man, he saw learning as the essence of what makes us human. He is survived by his wife Kathryn, his six children, Claire Belden (Dwight) , David (Julie), Jim (Cindy), Paul, Karin, and Peter (Linda), his seventeen grandchildren, Peter, Katherine, Andrew, Anne, Hilary, John, Jack, Carly, Ted, Caroline, David, Mark, Ailey, Sofia, Lauren, Matthew, and Michael, and his two sisters, Mary Claire and Margaret. In lieu of flowers, family would appreciate contributions in his memory to: Society of St. Vincent de Paul, 1505 E. 17th St., #109, Santa Ana, CA 92705, please put Jim's name in the memo section.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Oct. 10 to Oct. 11, 2015
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