My dad is a tough cookie. And I’ll tell you why

| June 20, 2013 | 1 Comment

Late 70's throwback photo, from left, Barbara Helm, Natalie Helm, Nichol Helm Kahale and Dad Larry Helm.

Late 70’s throwback photo, from left, Barbara Helm, Natalie Helm, Nichol Helm Kahale and Dad Larry Helm.

Larry Helm passed away last night of liver cancer. Uncle Larry’s daughter, Nichol Helm Kahale, wrote this loving tribute to her dad a couple of weeks ago.

By Nichol Helm Kahale

The eldest of seven children and from humble beginnings he was taught to work hard, to service others, to show love and compassion for ALL human beings and to help those who were dealt a bad hand. He has and continues to stand up for the little guy.

He’s had his fair share of standing up for himself. Although poverty stricken, he desired a college education and in the early 60’s he made do with that goal and attended Chaminade University of Honolulu. Two years in, he took a break to work and earn money for tuition. During this time he was drafted in the war, the Vietnam War. Those that could afford college — the elite few — avoided the draft. But those dealt a bad hand like my dad were chosen. Surviving heavy combat in the Vietnam War was the first test of his survival skills.

In the 70’s he lost his younger brother George Jarrett Helm Jr. (musician, political leader/activist). He worked tirelessly with FBI investigators, politicians and the police force researching his murder or “disappearance.” He didn’t fear speaking up. A lesson he always taught to his children. He had already faced the end of the barrel in Vietnam and the Mafia, organized crime, military and political pundits couldn’t intimidate him.

In his early 40’s he had yet to encounter another test of faith. The Big “C” word. Cancer. After radiation, surgery and a long road to healing — he beat it. However, financially, it was tough on the family. He lived and worked on Oahu and sought cancer treatment primarily on his own. While mom was taking care of a young family on Molokai, dad would have to walk to catch the bus to get treatment at the hospital. At times, weak and weary, but strong and faithful. He beat it.

In a 12-year span, he underwent two open-heart surgeries to replace a heart valve. He also survived the political machine attacks while running for office in the “first-ever seat” for the House of Representative (Molokai, Lanai and West Maui). All this while remaining true to himself and never selling out.

Years later he would fight the system and bureaucrats just to obtain a permit to operate a small Molokai Wagon Ride in Mapulehu. Eleven public hearings and financial burdens later he cheated death once again. He suffered a bleeding ulcer and was air medivaced to Oahu with very little blood left in his body. The doctors said if he had waited one more day he would have died.

Nothing could prepare him for what would come next. The hardest test of his faith came in 1989 when his daughter (my younger sister Natalie) died in an airplane crash at age 15. This was probably the most difficult thing any parent could endure. My dad and mom were tough, but this one — well this one — you’d think would do anyone in. He was the leader for most of the families. Helping them deal with lawyers and made sure the airline industry was held accountable. He was a fighter and was not going to let his daughter and all those who perished on Flight 1712 die in vain.

His true calling came in the mid 90’s to help with care and providing services to the many Molokai veterans. He is the commander for the Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans organization and has led it to what it is today. He also worked endlessly and unselfishly towards building the first Veterans Center on Molokai. He took on the arduous task of dealing with the County and the red tape that goes along with it. We hope he will SOON see his work come to fruition.

Today, he faces another hurdle: terminal liver cancer. Although the doctor says it “doesn’t look good” we all know after reading this post my dad has had nine lives AND he won’t go down without a fight. We ask for your prayers, your love, your positive and mana-ful energy.

This post was approved and endorsed by my father and mother.

Category: maui county, opinion

About the Author ()

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *