Hilarion “Larry” Hugh Helm, Commander of Molokai Veterans Caring For Veterans, died peacefully in his Ho’olehua home after he lost his battle to cancer. He was 70.
A public servant leader, entertainer, entrepreneur, political candidate, veteran advocate and selfless community contributor affectionately known as Uncle Larry and the “Commander,” Helm will be greatly missed by many, including fellow friend, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. On the day she learned of his passing Gabbard’s personal Facebook status read:
“Today is a sad day and a day of loss. Uncle Larry Helm passed away. Our state and our country mourn his passing. He committed his life to serving fellow veterans and our community. Miss you already, Uncle Larry.”
Just the day before, Rep. Gabbard spoke on the House floor addressing Congress in a tribute to the Commander, stating, “He is the epitome of a servant leader who has been active all across the state of Hawaii fighting for his family, his friends his neighbors his community for veterans and all those who have served in the armed services, taking him all the way to the U.S. Senate testifying and fighting for benefits.
“No matter the challenge, whether in combat in Vietnam as a community leader or now as he battles cancer, Uncle Larry has always stood for what is right. He’s dedicated three decades of his life to opening a veterans center to those veterans on Molokai to make sure that valuable resources are available to these veterans and their families who very often have access to none. Uncle Larry, we love you, we honor you and we stand with in your righteous battles and we will work to make your vision a reality.”
His early years
• Helm was born in Pu’unene, Maui to the late Melanie “Koko” Helm and the late George Jarrett Helm, Sr. (known as the Molokai Miracle – Advertiser, Sunday Nov. 7, 1954). He grew up on a homestead farm in Kalamaula, Molokai.
• Helm is the eldest of seven children. Leadership comes naturally to the Helm family. Helm’s siblings: brother, late Gregory Helm Sr. – head of Department of Hawaiian Home Lands on Molokai; sister Stacy Helm Crivello – Maui County councilmember; brother Zachary Helm, head of Molokai Department of Parks & Recreation and former Maui County Deputy Director of Parks & Recreation under former Mayor Charmaine Tavares; brother Adolph Helm – project manager of Dow Seeds/Mycogen on Molokai and former president of Hawaii Crop Improvement Association; brother, late George Jarrett Helm, Jr. — famous falsetto Hawaiian musician, activist and political leader and the Protect Kaho’olawe ‘Ohana (PKO) leader who spearheaded the movement to stop the military bombing on Kaho’olawe.
• 1960 Molokai High School graduate. Attended Chaminade University of Honolulu College before being drafted into the Army. He served with the Army in the 1st Bn (Mech) 5th Infantry, 25th Division, at Schofield Barracks and was a Vietnam combat Veteran.
His leadership and advocacy
Helm stood up for the little guy and spent his lifetime committed to serving others in various leadership roles:
• Spokesperson for families of Aloha Island Air Flight #1712 airplane crash. He worked with lawyers in a lawsuit. Helm lost his 15-year daughter Natalie Helm in the crash. He held the airline industry accountable by making sure the company changed their policies requiring pilots to use instruments rather than VTR.
• He helped lead an investigation with FBI investigators and politicians in the mysterious death of his brother, well-known activist, musician and PKO leader George Jarrett Helm, Jr. He also worked and collaborated with Producer Dana Gluckstein to make a movie on his brother. His dream was to have the movie and a book written about the true story of his brother’s disappearance before he passed away.
• He was commander and founder of the Molokai Veterans Caring For Veterans organization. Helm spearheaded and lobbied for funds to get the first veteran center built on Molokai to provide care and services to the many Molokai veterans.
His faith and church involvement
• A devout Catholic, Helm was part of the Men’s Cursillo, Music Ministry and Pastoral Counsel.
• He was instrumental in leading the efforts in fundraising for the newly built St. Damien Catholic Church on Molokai. Major funds were raised every year when Helm auctioned various items at the annual Catholic Country Fair.
• He was involved in getting a statue of Brother Dutton made. Placement of the statue may be at Kalaupapa or at the veteran center (Brother Dutton was a veteran and worked alongside St. Damien and St. Marianne).
Political and community advocacy
• He was a writer and regular contributor to The Molokai Times, The Molokai Dispatch, Star Advertiser, Maui News and other media.
• He also survived the political machine attacks while running for office in the first-ever seat for the House of Representatives from Molokai, Lanai and West Maui while remaining true to himself and never selling out.
The entertainer, musician
• He was a songwriter. Known for his songs “My Ohana is Your Ohana”, “Why You Call Me Uncle, Like I Call You Aunty,” “Homestead Man” and “Father Damien.”
• During his high school years, The Helm Brothers (Larry & Greg) were known for their music act on radio and television – a copycat Everly Brothers duo.
• Known to be able to draw a crowd and entertain the likes of anyone, he had a variety Polynesian entertainment show in Seattle, Washington in the 70’s — standing room only — and a packed house at the Golden Door, The Blockhouse and The Dynasty Restaurant. As an entertainer he shared his hospitality with almost anyone and spread the aloha spirit through his music across the country.
• He recorded an album in the 70’s called the Hawaii 5-OOH.
• Master of ceremonies for many community and political events as well as an auctioneer.
• As an entrepreneur he owned and operated the Helm’s Hale and The Outrigger Restaurants in Seattle, Washington.
• As a homestead farmer he grew radishes for bottled pickled radish products.
• In the late 1980’s he co-owned and operated the hot tourist attraction featured in magazines and newspaper articles called the Molokai Wagon Ride. Starting the operation was difficult as it took 11 public hearings to obtain a permit. The famous song “Molokai Slide” (Ehukai, the first group to record the song won a Hoku award) was gifted to Helm and written about an experience on his wagon ride.
Celebration of life
July 27, Saturday, at the St. Damien Catholic Church in Kaunakakai, Molokai. Burial to follow at the Kanakaloloa Veteran Cemetery in Ho’olehua.
He is survived by his wife of 46 years Barbara; sons, Michael, Matthew (Erika), Marcus; Daughter Nichol Helm Kahale (Michael); 11 grandchildren; brothers, Adolph Helm (Corene), Zachary Helm (Henrietta) and Bill Puleloa (Linda); sisters Stacy Crivello and Georgia Mae Helm, and many nephews and nieces.
See the following links for more information on his involvement with his veterans’ sdvocacy for various news outlets:
Tribute to Larry Helm by his daughter Nichol Helm Kahale prior to his passing.
Veterans Facebook page – articles, press and other newsworthy information