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Help the Hellmans

Dick Hellman passed away on May 11 after an 11-month fight with esophageal cancer. His family and friends have planned a benefit on Saturday to help his wife pay for his remaining medical costs. (Submitted photo)

After Dick and Sharon Hellman lost two children to a rare kidney disease, Dick decided to do something to help make sure no parent had to experience the heartache he and his wife had.

For a year, Dick worked as many odd jobs as he could, in addition to his fulltime work at Serco Loaders in Two Harbors, saving all of the extra income. At the end of the year, he had saved $8,000 to donate to medical research.

"He always said, 'any job worth doing is worth doing well'," said Courtney Udenberg, a family friend of the Hellmans.

Hellman worked at Serco Loaders for 29 years, 15 of which were with Udenberg's fiancé, Bryan Nelson. That's how Udenberg first met Sharon and Dick.

"They just always made me feel welcome," Udenberg said.

Now, the family and friends of Hellman are hoping his generosity and kindness will be repaid. Hellman died on May 11 from esophageal cancer at the age of 68. Though he had health insurance, the chemotherapy treatments that kept him alive for 11 months after his diagnosis, weren't covered.

Before Hellman took a turn for the worse, Udenberg and a number of other friends and family members were planning to host a benefit to defray medical costs. Then, just weeks ago, Hellman's health declined sharply and he died quickly.

"When he passed away, we decided we wanted to still do it," Udenberg said.

Hellman had to retire early because of his illness, so his life insurance policy was no longer in effect. Hellman's wife Sharon is responsible for the outstanding medical bills, and their son-in-law Bob Bissell said they spent a majority of their savings and retirement funds on medical bills. In short -- the benefit is necessary.

"Whatever we do will be a blessing for Sharon," Bissell said.

Hellman was a well-known face around Two Harbors and Brimson. He was born in Biwabik and is the son of Hugo Hellman, former owner of Hugo's Bar in Brimson. Udenberg said she will remember Dick Hellman for his sense of humor.

"He was cracking jokes up until the very end," she said.

Bissell added that Hellman was family-focused and hard-working.

"I don't think anyone didn't like him," Bissell said.

Bissell said the Two Harbors community has been incredibly supportive throughout Hellman's illness and he hopes folks can set aside an hour or two on Saturday to give a little more for the Hellmans.

"I'm amazed how many people really care. That's the advantage of living in a small town...we take care of each other," Bissell said.

The benefit is scheduled for this Saturday at the Moose Lodge in Two Harbors. The spaghetti feed costs $7 per plate and $4 for kids 10 and under. Purchasing a dinner ticket will enter you in a door prize drawing and there will also be a silent auction. Live music by D'Merritt will begin at 9 p.m.

LaReesa Sandretsky
LaReesa Sandretsky is a Two Harbors High School graduate and Duluth native who began working at the News-Chronicle in 2012 as a reporter. She took over as editor in 2014. She covers County Board, including the Lake County broadband project.
(218) 834-2141