Thomas Helgestad, Wisconsin Rapids, WI/formerly Edgerton, WI (1954-2014)
April 1, 1954 - June 18, 2014
Thomas Helgestad, age 60, died at home in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, surrounded by family on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. He fought the good fight for almost seven years against cancer. Tom was born April 1, 1954, in Edgerton, WI, the son of Perry and Marcia Helgestad. He has a brother Scott Helgestad. He married Frances Dvornik, that marriage ended in divorce. He, then, met and married Marilyn Roman from Stevens Point, WI. Tom has two sons, T. Michael (Sara) Helgestad and Erik (Brittny) Helgestad.
Tom began his lifelong career at age 16 working in the maintenance department of Edgerton Hospital, nine of those thirteen years as the Maintenance Supervisor. He worked there until the age of 29. Finding that he loved that kind of work, he eventually moved on and up. Tom started at Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools in August of 1983, as a maintenance supervisor. The next year he was assigned to also manage the Grounds Department. In June of 1989, he was promoted to the Director of Building & Grounds. Through the years at WRPS, Tom served on many community projects. He was instrumental in creating Lincoln High School's PAC and was project leader for the School district in its completion. He also worked hand in hand with the development of the South Wood County Hockey Facility and the Soccer Committee at Washington School. For WRPS, he managed $45 million dollar Referendum projects that included construction, remodeling, roofing, building upgrades and the infamous hail storm damage repair. Because of Tom's energy saving practices WRPS received two state Focus on Energy awards. He was very proud that in his twenty-nine years at WRPS not a single school day was missed because of a building not being ready for students and staff, excluding snow days. Tom retired in July 2012. Tom said his best day at WRPS was the day he proposed to his wife, Marilyn, at Grove School. Her first graders were thrilled, as was she!
Other community activities include past President of Tri City Curling and Chairman of St. Stephen Church Finance Council. He has been on the council over 22 years. He served two three terms on the board of Directors of the Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials (WASBO), Chairman of the WASBO Facility Committee in which he helped develop and implemented the state-wide custodial-maintenance conferences and worked creating the WASBO Director Certification Program. Tom served as Vice President of the Wisconsin School Safety Coordinators Association (WSSCA) and was currently its 2014 President. Also in connection with WSSCA, he and several others began a school security assessment committee that traveled state wide to study school districts' crisis and safety plans. This group is called WSAT. After assessing these districts, the reviews were documented in a follow up report. This group was gaining momentum as more and more districts heard about it.
Tom was an avid sportsman, hunter and fisherman. He was a scuba diver and enjoyed downhill skiing in his younger days. He, of course, loved the Packers and the Badgers, often going to games, even the frozen tundra game with Brett Favre. Tom was a man of truth, honesty and principles. He loved Labradors, having grown up with them. He especially loved our Lexi (a Black) and Nala (a Yellow) and he learned to love kitties. He and Marilyn went out Christmas Eve as Santa and Mrs. Claus, putting on sometimes up to 150 miles on the sleigh that night. He also portrayed Father Christmas for the Love Lights Tree Lighting Ceremonies for many years. He really took to his roles and brought much joy to many on those nights. He enjoyed it as much or more than the kids.
Tom's faith was a great comfort to him. He was very thankful for all the prayers everyone prayed and all the prayer chains he was included in. They helped him defeat the odds much longer than expected. He would get his radiation and chemo treatments in the mornings and go back to work after them. He was never sick nor did he miss work due to his cancer until it worsened or he had to go to UW-Madison for treatments. Tom and Marilyn felt he had the best treatments, the heads of departments treating cancer patients, the best oncologists, the best radiation-oncologists available through UW Cancer Center Riverview and UW-Madison, along with all the support staff.
Fighting cancer is a very personal journey and Tom, Marilyn, along with his mother, Marcia, and his sons, Mike and Erik, want to thank and very gratefully acknowledge Dr. Kirschling, Dr. Olsen, Dr. Welsh and everyone that entered into his day at UW Cancer Center Riverview; Dr. Houng, special Phase 1 nurse, Karen, and everyone in Phase 1; Dr. Hartig and Dr. Westergaard at UW Madison. We would not have changed a thing-except beating this awful disease-with any of our treatments or decisions. He had the best and he fought the best he knew how. It didn't hurt having Viking blood running through his Norwegian veins either...
Along with his wife, sons, mother and brother he is also survived by his brother-in-law, Fran T. Roman and wife, Barbara; sisters-in-law, Doris and Virginia Roman; many nieces and nephews; great nieces and nephews. His father, Perry; grandparents; nephew, Brett Helgestad; along with brothers-in-law, Dave and George Roman; preceded him in death.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, June 23, 2014, at ST. STEPHEN CATHOLIC CHURCH, 1401 Clark St., St. Point, WI. Rev. Jerzy Rebacz will officiate. Visitation will be held at RITCHAY FUNERAL HOME in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, from 3 until 7 p.m. Sunday, and Monday at the CHURCH from 9:30 until 11 a.m. There will be a Parish Rosary at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the FUNERAL HOME. Burial will be at St. Stephen Parish Cemetery. Online condolences may be sent by visiting ritchayfuneralhome.com.
Other than flowers, please consider giving to the memorials-St. Stephen Church Endowment Fund or LOVE LIGHTS, which Marilyn Co-chairs for Riverview Hospital Auxiliary. All monies are dedicated to UW Cancer Center Riverview patient care.