On the morning of August 22, 2011, William Franklin Helsley, 84, died after a recent stroke under the protection of Almighty God and with deep peace. His last moments were beautiful and filled with grace and hope for us all. He was welcomed into paradise with the open arms of his wife, Renetta and his Heavenly Father. Bill died in the home he built on Senedo Road, Edinburg, Virginia, with his loving daughter, Shelia Ann Helsley, great-granddaughter, Lexi, great-grandson, Dylan, and family friend, Tomasina Stephon. He had enjoyed wonderful visits at home earlier in the week from his family and friends to say their good-byes and express their love and appreciation for the difference he made in their lives.
Bill’s life was an inspiring example of strong faith in God, quiet service to others, and loyalty to his church. The love of Christ was manifested in and through him in everything he did and said.
Born August 30, 1926 in Ridge Hollow at the base of Three-Mile Mountain in Shenandoah County, Bill attended the Oak Ridge School House and married Renetta Florence Heltzel in 1951. They were happily married for 52 years before her death September 2003. They enjoyed an unusually loving and caring marriage, and they held each other’s hands until parted by death.
Bill was a decorated U.S. Army veteran of both World War II and Korea, having received the Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Army Occupation Medal. He received an Honorary Discharge at the end of 1946.
For 40 years, Bill was a hard-working and much-beloved employee for the Virginia Department of Transportation, retiring on the last day of 1988. He loved working with people and solving problems, building roads and even plowing snow with the crews. He could handle the most difficult situations with a strong, quiet gentleness that was his hallmark.
While some leaders and pillars of faith are flamboyant or showy, Bill led a life dedicated to God and filled with humility, generosity, and integrity through all the ups and downs. His consistency in these remarkable traits meant that he was looked up to, relied upon, and admired greatly by young and old alike. He took great joy in sharing the bounty of his garden with neighbors and friends. A prized earthly possession was his handmade, garden tractor (one of a kind!) which he drove proudly gardening and giving children rides in the trailer around the property at fun events at his home. He will be so greatly missed by all those lives he touched.
Preceding him in death were his parents, Joseph and Rosie Helsley; beloved wife, Renetta; brothers, Kirby, Joseph Jr., and Berlin; and sister, Gladys.
He leaves his four sisters, Bettie Hepner, Jean Santmyers, Patty Ross, and Mary Miller; a granddaughter, Laura Beth; in-laws, Earl and Ellen Heltzel, Barbara Heltzel, and a great number of nieces and nephews.
Bill’s family extends its deepest and sincere appreciation to all who have participated in his care, including doctors, nurses (at both Shenandoah Memorial Hospital and Winchester Medical Center), rescue squad volunteers, RMH Hospice, family and friends. The family is in deep gratitude for his Drs. Andrew Waligora, Melanie Mattson, Elizabeth Cardwell and Kirk Sheap for the years of excellent care and devotion to helping him live a longer life doing all the activities he loved beyond all our expectations.
Friends and Family Night will be at First Church of Columbia Furnace on Thursday, August 25 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. A funeral service will be held on Friday, August 26, at 10:00 a.m. at First Church of Columbia Furnace, with burial in Sunset Gardens in Woodstock. A meal will follow after the service. The family welcomes everyone to be part of this celebration of Bill’s life and time of sharing stories and happy memories.
Memorial gifts in Bill’s name would be welcomed at RMH Hospice, 2010 Health Campus Drive, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22801-9905; Woodstock Rescue Squad, 132 West Reservoir Road, Woodstock, Virginia 22664. There is also an Alexis Mikayla Helsley Lincoln and Dylan Lewis Sligh Scholarship Fund, c/o Bank of America, Trust Fund Department, 100 North Main Street, Woodstock, Virginia 22664.
Pallbearers will be Bo Hawkins, Ben Draper, Gabriel Sortzi, Gretchen Sortzi, Dan Dellinger, Dale Wetzel, Dennis Heltzel and Bobby Whetzel.
Honorary Pallbearers will be the Virginia Highway Department Retirees.
May Bill, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace and rise in glory.