Sidney – For one family rooted in Shelby County, maintaining a time-honored tradition to celebrate their heritage reached a milestone Sunday, Sept. 17, with the 100th celebrated and documented family reunion. Approximately 140 people attended the festivities.
The Helman family held their reunion in grand fashion. They rented Van Demark Farms near Sidney.
Jeff Helman, of Sidney, son of Dwayne one patriarch of the family, is the president of the reunion planning committee. Dwayne’s daughter, Amy Kokoropoulos, of Oakwood, is acting secretary.
According to documented family history, the first Helman, George Sebastian Helman, came to America in 1752, prior to the Revolutionary War, with his parents and brother. George is the Helman through which the local Helman’s trace their lineage.
The family sailed on the SS Brothers upon leaving Oberlustadt, Germany to escape religious persecution. They first settled in Pennsylvania and traveled on to Ohio, setting down roots locally.
As of 1993, there were over 1,200 Helman family members listed in the National Helman Registry. The registry does not include alternate spellings, according to Jeff.
Several members of the family own businesses in the area. Helman-held properties include Rosewood Machine and Tool, Helman Brothers Body Shop, Helman Auto Parts, Maplewood Implement, and Worldwide Tractor.
“I tell people we were all born with a wrench in our hands and grease in our blood,” said Jeff.
Reunions noted in historical ledger from 1905
Rare is family documentation for more than 100 years, available. The planning committee that has a book of minutes for reunions dating back to 1905.
The reunions were first held at the village park in Covington. Afterwards the gatherings were moved to individual homes. As the reunions grew in numbers, the events were moved to the Trinity Church of the Brethren in Sidney.
“Some years were taken off for wars,” noted Jeff, saying not all 100 reunions were consecutive.
The family released 100 balloons in memory of all family members who have passed away, Jeff said.
Late planning secretary remembered
One remembrance was in honor of the former secretary, Diane Roth. Late last year, Diane, the daughter of Dave Helman, tragically lost her life from injuries sustained in an auto accident.
“Diane was so excited about this reunion. She had a lot of ideas for it. We had a get-together at Christmas. She and her husband left, and on their way home they had an accident. It was on the 12th of December, she left the hospital on the 23rd, came home and seemed to be doing all right. She had a blood clot on the 27th. It took her quick. She was 58 years old,” said Karen Helman, Diane’s aunt.
A large contingency of Helman family members were needed to pull off such an expanded undertaking. In addition to Jeff and Amy, their cousins have joined in this undertaking.
Organizers are developing a cookbook of family recipes to commemorate the 100th reunion. Family members were asked to bring a legible copy of a favorite recipe for inclusion in the cookbook.
Family photos, heirlooms, historical documents, and legibly-written memories were also requested. A copier was available for those possessing original documents. A professional photographer was also on hand.
Some activities included a cruise-in that featured restored antique cars, tractors, and a semi. One automobile was manufactured in 1917, Jeff said.
The family also had access to mini golf, a petting zoo, hayride, corn maze, catch and release fishing, and a golf driving range.
“I don’t know how many more reunions there will be. I hope it continues. Our kids are very involved, but who knows about their kids. Keeping in touch with family is important,” said David, eldest patriarch of the family.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.