Charlie Helms

by Lynn McMillen
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Charlie Helms was born and raised in Grove Hill, Alabama. He graduated from Clarke County High School where he played football, basketball, and baseball. He had an early morning paper route throughout high school and was also a Boy Scout. His early love was the St. Louis Cardinals partly because that was the only team the local radio station carried. He remained a steadfast fan his entire life.

In 1958, Charlie graduated from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (the year before it would become Auburn University) with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He married his hometown sweetheart, Anne Waite, that summer and they headed off to St. Louis to work for McDonell Douglas. While in St. Louis they made lifelong friends and enjoyed going to Cardinals games.

In 1960, Charlie accepted a position with Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville, Alabama where he and Anne would put down roots. Charlie had an exciting career as an engineer during the height of America’s Space Shuttle Program. His team built the payloads for several Space Shuttle flights including Challenger, Discovery, and Atlantis. He traveled to Cape Canaveral regularly to see his missions blasted into space. He retired at the age of 65 after a 40-year career with Teledyne.

Charlie’s true passion was his family. His daughter, Anne, was born in 1966 and his son, Charlie Jr. in 1968. He was a devoted dad coaching numerous softball and baseball teams, chairing the high school Booster Club, and never missing a game, match, recital, or swim meet. In his spare time, he enjoyed hiking, training for the Cotton Row Run, and reading about history.

Charlie “Baba” brought being a grandfather to a whole new level. His five grandchildren were the joy of his later life. He was a guiding presence in their lives, never missing one of their activities and taking an interest in anything they did.

In retirement, he and Anne lived a very active life traveling all over the US and Europe and taking the entire family on an especially memorable trip to Alaska. Charlie joined the local hiking club, was a member of the Kiwanis Club, he and Anne were longtime members of the Faith Sunday School class at their church, and he served as a greeter welcoming worshipers each Sunday.

At the age of 80, Charlie was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Always the stoic, he never complained about its effect on his movement. In fact, he determined to fight the diagnoses and live a quality life as long as possible. He was a faithful member of the Rock Steady boxing group for Parkinson’s patients. While it was extremely challenging, it made him feel like he was doing his best to outwit this horrible disease.

From the testimonies of his colleagues and friends, Charlie was a kind, gentle, and patient man who never lacked a sense of humor. Though a man of few words, he was respected for his thoughtful and calm demeanor. His family knew him as a loving husband, father, and grandfather who set a positive example for all who knew him. He will also be remembered as an avid fan of his beloved Auburn Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals.

He leaves behind his wife, Anne Waite Helms; his daughter Anne Helms Marino (Michael) of Atlanta; his son, Charles Porter Helms, Jr. (Melody) of Madison; and his grandchildren, Mitchell, Kate and William Marino and Julia and Sarah Helms. They will all miss him very much.

The funeral service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, January 21st at First United Methodist Church followed by a reception. The service will be live streamed at

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Huntsville First United Methodist Church, 120 Greene St. Huntsville, AL 35801; Rock Steady Boxing Rocket City (; or the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research (

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