RIP Mark Helmke

Submitted by ub on Sun, 11/09/2014 - 08:41

There has been an extremely moving show of affection in the tri state region of Indiana for a fallen communications comrade. My friend Mark Helmke, who liked to refer to us as the team of hack and flack, and who I enjoyed calling my little brother. He suddenly died by the shore of Lake James the night before his birthday.

Memories will forever last of the joyful times we shared together, teaching communication classes on the university campus, sailing along the the lake, and loving your folks as an adopted family member at their beautiful home, which I'll always remember fondly as we celebrated weekends and holidays during an academic appointment in the office we shared during a semester that we worked together.

The Herald Republican wrote the following: By Mike Marturello /

ANGOLA — Mark Helmke, former press secretary of U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, a former staff member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and current communications lecturer at Trine University, died unexpectedly early Saturday. He was 62.

Helmke, a native of Fort Wayne, had been living at the family’s 90-year-old homestead on Lake James where he died.

“It was just a shock to us,” said his father, prominent attorney Walter P. Helmke, Lake James. “He was such a great son.”

“Quite a shock,” said his mother, Rowene Helmke, Lake James. “We were very proud of Mark.”

Mark Helmke was found in his cottage behind his parents’ home early Saturday by his father. He would have turned 63 today.

“I grew up in these parts; schooling in Fort Wayne, every summer at Lake James. Then I ran away. After a more than 40–year journey, I came home in summer 2012 and began my career at Trine,” Mark Helmke said of himself in his biography on the Trine University website.

“He loved talking about and studying history and politics. He loved to study people, their foibles and strengths and how they made their communities think,” said his brother, Paul Helmke, former mayor of Fort Wayne. “He loved the process and trying to make a difference. It’s a real loss, there’s a real hole in my heart.”

For many years Mark Helmke worked as the press secretary for Lugar, R-Ind., in Washington, D.C., joining his staff in 1981. From there he become a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he worked nine years and prided himself on working to help progress the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, better known as the Nunn-Lugar Act, that sought to eliminate nuclear arms and infrastructure in Russia and former Soviet states.

“Mark Helmke was a talented public servant, communicator, teacher and political observer with whom I was privileged to work for many years. He was very proud of his work, but he took even greater pride is his family, and he shared stories about them every day,” Lugar said in a statement Sunday.

“My one prized possession is the last Soviet uniform of a three-star general from Ukraine who I lobbied to join the Nunn-Lugar program to eliminate nuclear weapons,” Helmke said in his biography.

“Mark had a very eventful life in his 63 years,” his father said.

Before joining Lugar’s staff, Helmke was a reporter at The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne. He also was a political consultant who built a strategic communications company, taking it from five to 450 employees.

“Mark played important roles in historic events. As a reporter and campaign operative, he influenced many Indiana elections over a generation. On the world stage, he contributed compelling communications and diplomatic savvy during the election of Corazon Aquino and the toppling of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, the ending of apartheid in South Africa, the spreading of democracy in Latin America, and the establishment of a new government and economic climate in post-Soviet Ukraine,” Lugar said.

Helmke managed successful political campaigns in the United States and played major roles in the 1986 Philippine democratic revolution and the South African apartheid sanctions debate, said the Center for International Media Assistance website. He holds bachelor and master’s degrees in political science and journalism. In 1987, Helmke was awarded an honorary “Doctor of Spin” certificate by the U.S. Senate Press Gallery.

In his position at Trine, Helmke said his purpose was to “teach future generations the skills needed for their journeys.”

Walter Helmke said Mark was currently working on a book about George Washington’s war for Kekionga, 1750 - 1797, which was the topic of a lecture he gave before the Steuben County Historical Society in October.

Mark Helmke came from a long line of northeast Indiana politicians. His brother, Paul, was a three-term Republican mayor of Fort Wayne. Their father, Walter P., Lake James, is a former state senator and Allen County prosecutor. Mark’s late grandfather, Walter E., was an Allen County prosecutor, city attorney and local Republican chairman. The Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne library is named for Walter E. Helmke.

Helmke is survived by his wife, Sue Stone, his parents, brother, Paul, and sister, Marsha Shirk, as well as three children, Addison Eiler, Brighton Helmke and Claire Helmke, and a grandchild.

Funeral services at Weicht Funeral Home, Angola.

Mark C. Helmke, senior Senate staff member, dies

Lugar assistant Helmke, 62, dies | The Journal Gazette

Helmke cast long shadow on world stage | The Journal Gazette

Obituary: Mark Helmke

Vaya con Dios... Hasta la vista, hermanito!

Submitted by ub on Tue, 07/14/2015 - 18:44


The Trine University community mourned the loss of a beloved
professor, colleague and friend in November.

Mark Helmke, 62, died Nov. 1, 2014, at his home.
Craig Laker, dean of the Jannen School of Arts and Sciences,
said that Helmke “provided an in-depth view and perspective
of national and international relations from first-hand
experiences which were incredibly valuable to our students
and fellow faculty.”

“Professor Helmke was very different from other professors
because of his unique background and experiences,” said
junior social studies education major Tyler Marx. “[He] was
very supportive and interested in his students and was very
interested to hear our opinions on topics.”

Student, family friend and neighbor James Clary said he used
his lifetime of political work to benefit his teaching.
“I will always remember
the experiences he had in
his political career that he
shared,” Clary, a senior social
studies education major,
said. “It was a life-changing
experience itself to simply
listen to his stories from his life.”
Helmke was a longtime aide to former Sen. Richard Lugar
and had begun his career as a journalist at the Fort Wayne
Journal Gazette.

BY- Catherine E. Porter, marketing and communication ’16