A Celebration of Life for Charles M. Helm was held at the Flagler Auditorium Saturday, Jan. 12.
With the soft sound of songs by Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra playing in the background, locals gathered in the Flagler Auditorium not to morn, but to celebrate the 88 years of life of Flagler County humanitarian Charles M. Helm — known as Charlie to his friends.
“It’s probably easier for me to state here the organizations that he didn’t represent than it is to talk about all of them,” said Bob Reese, of RJR Management, to the crowd gathered on Saturday, Jan. 12. “I wear a Rotary shirt today in honor of Charlie. … Our motto is ‘Service above self.’ I can think of no other individual I’ve ever met who epitomizes that phrase more than he does.”
As speakers stepped up to the podium to share memories of Charlie Helm, it was clear that Helm, of Plantation Bay, had touched countless lives through his ample volunteer work after moving to Flagler County in 1988 with the love of his life, Ginger. The two were married for 55 years before she died in 2007.
Rotary Club of Flagler Beach Publicity Chair Cindy Dalecki said she hopes all are comforted in that Charlie has been reunited in heaven with his wife and one of his sons, after he died on Jan. 1, 2019. She fondly recalled sitting next to him most times at the weekly Rotary breakfast, where Charlie would playfully make fun of her in a way no one else could get away with, she said.
“He knew being a Rotarian meant doing the work. And he also believed that if you’re not having fun doing it, you’re not doing it right,” Dalecki said.
She added that it was fitting Rotary’s theme for the year is “be the inspiration,” as Charlie is the best inspiration around.
“He was what he did, and he was a man you could not help but respect, admire and learn from,” said Suzy Gamblain, of Flagler Volunteer Services. “I can only hope to be half the angel Charlie was and is, because he was truly an angel among us.”
His local involvement included:
- President and charter member of the Flagler Beach Rotary Club
- President of the Flagler Beach Chamber of Commerce
- President of the Flagler Beach Scenic Highway
- President of the Friends of A1A
- President and charter member of the Flagler Beach Museum
- President and founding member of RSVP/Flagler Volunteer Services
- Chairman of the Flagler Beach Police Officers’ Pension Plan
- President and founding member of the Flagler Auditorium Governing Board
- Member of the Flagler County Chamber Board for six years, serving as vice president for one year, secretary for four years and on the executive board for five years.
Helm was also previously named Citizen of the Year and Rotarian of the Year by the Rotary Club of Flagler Beach. In addition, he received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Florida Hospital Flagler Foundation (now Advent Health).
John Subers, director of Advent Health Palm Coast Foundation, stepped up to share his experience getting to know Helm since 2009 when the two met on the hospital’s board of directors.
“My first impressions of Charlie — I can only imagine of few of you would share this with me — was of respect and awe,” Subers said. “I knew from very early that when Charlie spoke, I listened. This first impression of awe carried through until the last time we visited with Charlie. I consider myself very lucky. Our office at the hospital is very convenient to the entry and exit doors, so Charlie, over the last month or so, would be able to stop by often and say hello in between appointments. … He always sat down, spoke individually to each of us and always complimented on each of us.”
Being intentional with the friendships he made was a common trait mentioned about Helm.
“You knew that you were the most important person in the world to him when he spoke to you from his heart,” said Judy Stetson Weaver, who gave the closing remarks.
Suzy Gamblain, of Flagler Volunteer Services, met him in 1998 through the local Retired Senior Volunteer Program — not because Charlie needed help connecting to volunteer, but because Charlie wanted to help the program grow into the nonprofit it is today, she said.
“I’m honored to be one of ‘Charlie’s angels’ — one of the many professional women in our community who are mentored, given fatherly advice and taken under Charlie’s wing,” Gamblain said. “If you were lucky enough to be a ‘Charlie’s angel,’ you could depend on him; he was always there to assist or support you.”
The location of the Celebration of Life was another tribute to Helm’s local impact, as Richard Hamilton and Mary Stetler, of the Flagler Auditorium, spoke of Charlie’s long-term and wide-spread support for the auditorium and the arts.
“If any of us or all of us could live our lives the way Charlie Helm did, it would be a much much better world,” Stetler said.
Charlie Helm’s obituary can be read here.