September 5, 1915 - June 4, 2007
Steamboat Springs resident Henry Hellmers, professor emeritus of the botany department at Duke University, died June 4, 2007, in Steamboat Springs. He was 91.
He was born Sept. 5, 1915, in Palmerton, Pa., to Henry B.C. and Louise H. Hellmers. He moved to Langeloth, Pa., in 1916 when his father accepted a position at the American Zinc and Chemical Company Smelter and later built the Climax Molybdenum plant.
Henry graduated from Union High School in Burgettstown in 1933 and earned a bachelor's and master's degree in forestry from Penn State College in 1939. After working for the U.S. Forest Service on the New England Forestry Emergency Project (1938 hurricane) and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission as forestry inspector, he continued his education, enrolling at the University of California at Berkeley in 1941.
While awaiting assignment in the U.S. Naval Reserve, he worked for four months for the National Park Service in Yosemite and Sequoia. In the U.S. Navy, his assignments included that of air combat intelligence officer aboard the U.S.S. Hancock in the South Pacific and Ship ACIO aboard the U.S.S. Card in the Atlantic. After World War II, he stayed active in the Reserves and retired as a commander.
Henry and Lou Ann Moynihan had met at International House in Berkeley before the war and were married in 1945. He continued his studies at Berkeley and obtained his doctorate in 1950 from U.C. Berkeley in plant physiology.
In 1949, he accepted a position as plant physiologist with the U.S. Forest Experiment Station and was assigned to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. He headed up a study on cover improvement and soil stabilization for the San Gabriel Mountains and later investigated statewide forest regeneration problems. Henry also taught forestry classes at Pasadena City College.
In 1965, Henry retired from the U.S. Forest Service and accepted a professorship at Duke University in Durham, N.C. At Duke he designed, built and directed the Phytotron, a laboratory with controlled environment chambers and greenhouses for physiological plant research. Following the building phase of the Phytotron, he also taught a water management course in the Forestry School and plant physiology and ecology courses in the botany department. Henry was an avid Duke basketball fan for more than 45 years.
Henry retired from Duke in 1983, having published more than 50 scientific papers. Upon retirement, he and Lou Ann bought a motor home and traveled all over the North American continent for more than 20 years. He was a member of the Olin Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, N.C., for 41 years, where he had served as head usher and church moderator.
Henry Hellmers is survived by his wife of 61 years, Lou Ann of Steamboat Springs; two daughters, Rosemary Whittingham of Steamboat Springs and Carol Hellmers of Denver; three granddaughters, Sara Langell, Julie Wright and Katie Umphlett; and one great-granddaughter, Ashlyn Wright.
Henry and Lou Ann established the Hellmers Family Scholarship in 1987 to memorialize his mother, father and sister Gertrude (class of 1941) at Penn State University. Memorial contributions may be made to The Hellmers Family Scholarship Fund at The Pennsylvania State University, 2 Old Main, University Park, PA 16802-1502 or the Hellmers' Fund, Duke Gardens, Duke University, Durham, N.C. 27708.