To The MacArthur Class of ’76 High School Reunion
Bill Helm was much more than the collage of snapshots in a frame on the memorial table.
The young, athletic man on MacArthur’s field grew into an impactful man who loved people, loved his family, and loved sharing the WORD OF GOD.
The Bill you remember spent most of his early years playing basketball, football, running, and having fun times with friends. For the former athletes in the room, just like you, Father Time made him give up the field of play in exchange for years of yelling at the Big screen; howling “BAD PLAY!!” “That was DUMB!” or “COME ON MAN!!!”
In addition to sports, some of you may know that Bill also loved music; especially great saxophone playing! He spent most of his money in record stores. He would often say that if given a do-over, he would have never picked up a football but instead have learned an instrument.
Bill’s path took him from a small town life in Decatur to a brief glimpse of college football, only to catapult him to the open seas for a 15-year career in the US Navy. Bill served in wartime and shared that on one tour, he found himself looking at the gray miles of open sea and said to himself, “What in the hell am I doing out here in all this water?” He was that kind of guy; the kind that told it like it was, to himself and others. Those of you who regularly called him know that.
As GOD’s plan saw fit, his heart and life had been taking turns closer and closer toward his Christian faith. Ever since his boyhood when an 8th-grade classmate told him the world was ending; and it scared the beJesus out of him. He didn’t know that moment would light a fire and “draw” that young boy, and eventually an adult man, to stop running from his heart, his purpose, and his calling in life. And even the grandmother of his good friend Blenn Springfield was the one who prophetically spoke to him saying, “Bill you’re gonna be a PREACHA.” He laughed it off, but he remembered. Some of you at Zannie’s funeral may have experienced the power of Bill’s speaking.
Late in his military career, in one of those open sea moments - he put aside the running and the stubbornness and admitted GOD’s truth that he’d been pushing down inside of him – he committed that he’d spend the rest of his life teaching and preaching the WORD of GOD.
To be clear, Bill Helm was never a “religious” person. Bill was a Christian believer, who loved GOD. He was a well-rounded man who could listen to the crudest talks on a ship and still have conversations about the love of Jesus in the next breath. You could find Bill sitting for hours reading & preparing for a sermon, talking trash about his beloved “Tommy” Brady, having conversations with the homeless, providing encouragement, or giving grocery money to support a single mother. Bill wasn’t cookie-cutter in any way. He wanted to make Christ accessible to everybody he met.
Bill Helm was also a “make stuff happen” guy but in 2010, this took a turn when he experienced a stroke, impeding both his vision and mobility. In his 50s, the fullback you remember had to come to grips emotionally, physically, and spiritually with his new unforeseen disabilities. Though it was by no means an easy process, Bill would admit to you that this DETOUR in his life made him grow in ways he would have never imagined. He was the better for it. The stroke and his recovery made Bill become focused on the 2-minute warning of his life. He knew he could have died on the spot, but instead, GOD allowed him a few more downs in life to play.
I’ve purposefully kept you in the dark about who was narrating this story. So who is the Bill Helm “whisperer?” I am Anita Helm – eternally Bill’s sister in Christ and in this life I was his wife. I admit I did not know the Bill Helm that you all did. I met him full grown & fully baked; funny, lovable, and focused. I also never saw that washboard stomach he used to talk about.
Bill was a man with multiple personas for every person calling our home – and depending on how they asked for him I could tell which persona they had experienced. I called him “Rev” but I knew if the caller was asking for “Bill”, you were part of the Helm clan or a Decatur connection; if you asked for “Helm”, you met him during his Navy days; if you asked for “Rev. Helm” – you met him from all around the country as Pastors, church members, and Bible students.
Here’s the bottom line of my “whisper” to you, whether you’re in the half-time or the 2-minute warning of your life, I believe Bill would tell you these 3 things:
1) This life is long enough to make the most important decision that has an eternal consequence so Get to know the LORD for yourself. There are no hearses with U-Hauls so spend your time wisely on what will last beyond this life.
2) Your life has an end date that GOD knows and that you are guessing. Live life and love people with an urgency, like tomorrow is not guaranteed…because IT’S NOT!
3) Finally, Bill wanted very much to make it to your reunion to be with you all, but GOD had other plans. Bill Helm – my Rev – would hope that you “get to know Jesus” and take measure of the final downs of your life to get your spiritual house in order!
So I end this whisper by blowing my imaginary referee’s whistle and saying the clock’s ticking….get busy living.
GOD’s peace and love,
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