Richard P. Helling, 96
Richard P. Helling, age 96 of New Hampton, died Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at the New Hampton Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, at Holy Family Parish, New Hampton, with the Rev. James Goerend celebrating the Mass.
Interment will military honors will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery, New Hampton. For those unable to attend the Mass in person please join the family via Livestream by going to the Hugeback-Johnson Funeral Home and Crematory website that can be found at hugebackfuneralhome.com.
Friends may greet the family beginning at 9 a.m. until service time at the church on Thursday. The Hugeback-Johnson Funeral Home and Crematory has been entrusted with Richard’s services.
Richard’s long and amazing life began on Nov. 28, 1925, when his parents, Paul and Pearl (Brown) Helling, welcomed him into the world in Fort Madison, where he grew up on a small acreage on the edge of the city in southeastern Iowa.
He grew up during the Great Depression and that shaped his life. He sold things like apples and eggs to help his parents weather the hard economic times. Richard attended St. Mary’s Catholic Grade School before moving on to Catholic Central High School, where he was a member of the Class of 1944.
After graduating, he was inducted into the U.S. Army during World War II, and by the end of the year, he was in Europe fighting with the Allied forces that would defeat Nazi Germany. Richard fought and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, the battle in which the Allies thwarted the final German offensive of the war. After recovering, he was sent back to the front lines and was wounded a second time near Bollendorf during American operations in the German Rhineland. Richard was awarded two Purple Hearts for his service, yet for many years, he rarely, if ever, talked about his service during the war.
After receiving his honorable discharge, Richard worked for the Santa Fe Railroad for six months, but his calling was always farming, and in 1947, his dream was realized as he began renting a farm near Fort Madison.
His farm was near one owned by his parents, and just down the road lived a beautiful young woman named Ann Kempker, who was working at the Schaefer Pen Company in Fort Madison and was living with her uncle and aunt. Richard often delivered produce and eggs to their home, and Richard always told the story that he made sure to deliver produce and eggs as often as possible because Ann was there.
They began dating, fell in love, and embarked on a wonderful marriage that lasted almost 71 years when they said their “I do’s” to each other on Sept. 10, 1949, at St. James Catholic Church in Ann’s hometown of St. Paul, Iowa.
It was literally a match made in heaven, for these two did everything together — from farming to raising their five children to enjoying their grandchildren. The couple began their marriage farming near Fort Madison, but Richard’s dream was always to own his own farm in an area of the state that didn’t have the hills of southeast Iowa.
He found the perfect place in 1955 when the Hellings purchased a farm near North Washington and made the move to northeast Iowa, despite the fact that they didn’t know a soul in the area.
The family grew to include five children — John, Bernadette, Dale, Larry, and Leon — who had a father who was self-disciplined, highly organized, and had a work ethic second to none. Every night, Richard put together his “to-do” list for tomorrow, and more often than not, he accomplished it all.
He was a “cash-flow” farmer before the term was even born, and he was innovative when it came to farming. He also despised weeds of any kind in his fields, and the Helling kids will tell you that Dad had an “Eagle Eye” when it came to weeds. If he saw one on the way home from church, the car would stop and one of the kids would be sent out into the field to pull the dastardly milkweed. Even today, they remember trying to get Dad to take “this way” to church so they wouldn’t pass an oat field they knew had weeds in it!
When the Hellings first moved to northeast Iowa, they ran a dairy operation, but in the early 1960s, they switched to hogs and the Helling children still laugh that they received shovels and pitchforks for Christmas so that they could help Dad clean the hog barns.
Richard was a straight shooter. He didn’t cuss, he rarely drank, he didn’t smoke and he didn’t gamble. He did, however, love his wife, his children, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren. They knew they could always — and we mean always — count on him.
In 1984, Richard and Ann moved to the farm just off Highway 18 near New Hampton that they would call home for many years, and even after he retired in 1989, Richard stayed busy with his various landscaping projects. His flowers were beautiful and his lawn was always immaculate.
Over the years, Richard and Ann went from not knowing anyone in Chickasaw County to being pillars of the neighborhood. They, in short, loved their neighbors, and their social lives — including the card parties they attended — revolved around them.
He had a strong faith, and for many years, he was a member of the Immaculate Conception Church in North Washington. When the Hellings moved
to the farm near New Hampton, they attended Mass at St.
Mary’s Catholic Church, and when that church closed, they became members of Holy Family Parish.
Later in life, Richard was a member of the American Legion Fae Stine Post 38 in New Hampton and the VFW and he opened up a little more about his experiences during the war — sharing his story in a heartfelt keynote address during New Hampton’s Memorial Day celebration in 2010, one in which he shared the story of reconnecting with a war buddy named Harry 43 years after the war ended. He was also a member of the DAV and Purple Heart organizations.
Yet, he was like so many of his generation. They went off to war, they fought and they came home to build a better life for their families.
Richard was a voracious reader. He loved a good western and read pretty much every war story that was ever written. He could finish a book in a day or two, and the librarians in the area would call him to tell him new books had arrived because they knew he had read everything they had to offer.
Mostly, though, we will remember Richard as a man who loved his family, his church, and his country.
He is one of the last World War II veterans to grace our presence, but he was more than just a member of the “Greatest Generation.” He was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather, he was a fantastic farmer and he was a man of God.
They don’t make them like Richard anymore, and although we are saddened to say farewell to him, we are comforted by the fact that today he is reunited with Ann in a far better place.
Survivors include one daughter, Bernadette (Dave) Christoph of New Hampton; four sons, John (Linda) Helling of Harlan, Dale (Jo) Helling of Des Moines, Larry (Jan) Helling of Marion, and Leon (Jean) Helling of Ankeny; 12 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; brothers, Stanley (Lillian) Helling of Ft. Madison, and Joseph Helling of North Fort Myers, Florida; and sister-in-law, Charlene Helling of Kansas City, Missouri.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife, Ann on Sept. 6, 2020; two grandchildre; a daughter-in-law; Sharon Helling; and brothers, Eugene (Charlene) Helling and Edwin (Yevonne) Helling.