Howard Erwin Helmke, 88, Big Lake, died peacefully at his home at 1:30 a.m. Thursday, April 22, 2021.
He was born June 4, 1933, in Fort Wayne, a son of the late Otto and Alvina (Breugeman) Helmke. He completed elementary school at Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne, and graduated from Central High School.
On March 1, 1952, he married Shirley Ann Harding. They made their first home in Fort Wayne, then moving to a farm south of Columbia City. After his retirement, the couple moved to Shallotte, N.C. For the past 22 years, they have resided at Big Lake.
For 33 years, he worked for Zollner Piston, Fort Wayne, in the tool and die shop.
Living at the lake, he enjoyed fishing and hunting. Using his mechanical abilities at home, he was known to be a “jack of all trades.” In his younger years, he liked racing cars at the Baer Field race track. In his senior years, he became talented at stained glass work making windows and lamps.
Surviving is his wife of 69 years, Shirley; children: Gregory L. (Judy) Helmke of Columbia City; LuAnn Unrue of Olympia, Wash.; Dawn M. Cory, of Columbia City; and Rebecca L. (Jeffry) Chapman of Greenfield; seven grandchildren; three great-grandchildren and a sister, Trudy Finton of Fort Wayne.
Additionally, he was preceded in death by a son, Alan Helmke.
There will be no services. Arrangements by Smith & Sons Funeral Home, Columbia City.