Don Ray Helms, 82, of Bellevue passed away peacefully after a short illness on Tuesday, August 10, 2021, at his home surrounded by his family.
A celebration of Don’s life was held with a funeral service at 10 a.m. Monday, August 16, at Hachmann-Mier Funeral Home & Cremation Service in
Bellevue, Iowa. A visitation was held from 1 p.m.- 4 p.m. on Sunday, August 15, also at the funeral home.
Don was born to Kenneth Lee and Mildred Lenora (Thomas) Helms on December 17, 1938 in Warrick County, Indiana. He was named after Don Ameche, a popular movie star in the 1930’s. He grew up in Paradise, Indiana and graduated from Newburgh High School in 1956. Don earned his Bachelors of
Science in Wildlife from Purdue University in 1961 and his Masters of Science in Fisheries from Southern Illinois University in 1964. Don married Bonnie Tichenor on September 10, 1961. They moved to Swisher, Iowa in 1964.
In 1966, they moved to Bellevue, where they raised four children. Don worked for the Iowa Conservation Commission (now the DNR) 1964-1977 as a fisheries research biologist. For 10 years, he was Iowa’s only fisheries biologist assigned to the Mississippi River. After leaving this position, he was employed as a consultant for a Colorado firm (Ecology Consultants, Inc. which later became ERT/Environmental Research & Technology). He managed their Mississippi River field office in Bellevue. He was also Project Manager for the monitoring of Commonwealth Edison’s 16-megawatt nuclear power station near Cordova, IL to determine its effects on the Mississippi River.
In 1986 he started his own consulting business, Helms & Associates. He conducted numerous surveys and assessments for the presence of threatened and endangered species with a specialty in freshwater mussels. Don is well-known in the mussel community and highly regarded for his expertise.
In addition, Don enjoyed trapping turtles, digging ginseng, fur trapping, and other miscellaneous outdoor activities. He was an avid gardener with three large gardens. He grew corn, beans, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, and more. He also had a vineyard and several types of fruit trees. What he did not eat or give away, he and the family would can and freeze for winter or off season use. Don was also the family historian. He spent many hours researching and documenting the family genealogy including visiting gravesites across the Midwest. He has records for over 15,000 individuals.
Before her death in 2018, Don’s life was devoted to “his Bonnie”. Even after her death, he shared a special bond with her and would keep fresh flowers from his garden and yard on her grave.
Don is survived by his four children, Scott Helms (Reena Winkowski), of Bellevue; Jane (Walter) Wickham, of Maquoketa; Lisa Dague, of Urbandale, Iowa; and Susan (Daryl) Hankemeier, of Bellevue; 13 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. One brother, Kenneth (Judy) Helms of Sharpsville, Indiana. Don was preceded in death by his wife, Bonnie, and his parents.
Online condolences may be left for the family at www.hachmannfuneralhome.com.