Walter Helbig, “Opa”, 86, passed away on 6 April 2024 in Draper, Utah peacefully due to natural causes.

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Walter was born on September 25, 1937 in Bergenwald (Niebusch), Selesia, Germany to Max Reinhold Helbig and Emma Bansen, the fourth of four children and seventh child to Max Helbig. Walter experienced a very hard childhood in his informative years in Bergenwald. World War II started when he was almost two. At three and a half years he lost his mom due to pneumonia. Because of the war he experienced things that no child should experience but he admitted that because of being the youngest he got away with things that the rest of his siblings couldn’t. At the end of the war, when he was 7, the Russians came into his town and gathered up all the adult males and took them away. As his father was being taken away, he told his family that they wouldn’t see him again.

So, at this tender age his sister Gerda, who was 17, had to now take care of him and his brother Horst. They found themselves as refugees in 1946 when the Russians pushed the citizens of Bergenwald to Cottbus, in the Russian occupied area of east Germany. Two months later 30 individuals including Walter, his brother, and sister returned to Bergenwald and in 1948 the Polish government again gathered these individuals and took them to Neusalz (7km away) and loaded them onto a train to western Germany. They ended up in Peine, which was the greatest blessing for their family. They were able to meet up with their oldest brother, Werner, who was injured on the western front.

In his teenage years he moved to Langen and lived with his brother Werner. Having been a refugee from eastern Germany he was not treated well by others in the west. Moving to Langen still was difficult for him. His brother and sister-in law were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was treated with love and respect and really found how the gospel of Jesus Christ can help bring peace to a young soul who has witnessed things one should never have to.

He joined the church, was active, and met two of his best friends in Langen, Heinz Augat and Heinz Ertel. This was the start of a huge change in Walter’s life. By 1962 his friends had already immigrated to the United States and encouraged him to come to the U.S. He was able to get sponsorship and flew to Salt Lake City with one suitcase and $200 in his pocket.

He moved to Ogden and lived with Walter and Ida Mudrow, saints that he had met while in Frankfurt, Germany. He met the love of his life Gerda Tolsma and they were married April 17,1964. They moved to Murray and started their family. They were later sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on January 14, 1966.

His family was everything. Most everything that he did was focused on providing a better life than what he and his wife had experienced with growing up in Germany and Holland. He would always try to give advice or do things that would help his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren so they would understand why an eternal family was first and foremost.

Throughout his life as a member of the church, his faith kept him focused on what mattered most to him in his life: the Lord Jesus Christ and his eternal family. He served many callings within the German Speaking ward and from 1987 to 1992 he was called as Bishop. The youth that were in the ward at that time to this day talk about the impact that he has had on their lives and testimonies of the gospel. He spent many hours traveling to visit members from South Jordan to Bountiful, and Tooele.

He worked for LDS Hospital (Intermountain Healthcare) for 45 years as the printing department supervisor. He worked hard and those that worked with him could always count on him. That department grew due to his reputation and became the main printing department for Intermountain Healthcare.

Soccer, tennis, golf, and taking his family snow skiing every Saturday were his go to’s to keep himself balanced. Yearly vacations to Bear Lake with family and traveling around the western United States in the family camper were always being planned. To keep the bonds with his family in Germany he made it a point to travel back to be with them. Strong bonds between his sibling’s families and his still today are strong because of this focus.

He will be missed by many. His family, lifelong friends, and members of the German Speaking Ward.

He is survived by his children – Gerrit (Amy) Helbig Gorham, Maine; Audrey (Bert) Wandtke, Draper; Elke (Mike) Openshaw, Sandy; Angela (Ryan) Sobieski, West Jordan; fourteen grandchildren – Cassandra, Nathan, Danielle, Hayley, Stefan, Christian, Taylor, Dylan, Skyler, Ashley, Chelsey, Morgan, McKenzie, Justin; twenty greatgrandchildren – Louis, Sterling, Milo, Brooklynn, Londyn, Conner, Bostyn, Everett, Sawyer, Oliver, Henry, Owen, Max, Mina, Myles, Lillian, Link, Easton, Jayden, Lucas.

Preceded in death by his parents, wife Gerda, six siblings - Helene, Elisabeth, Gretel, Werner, Gerda, Horst; son-in law Kelly Watts.

We want to thank the staff at Valencia at Draper for the kind and compassionate care that you provided our father during this most difficult time. You went above and beyond to make our dad and us comfortable.

A viewing will be held Saturday morning April 13th from 8:45 -10:45 AM with Funeral Services on Saturday April 13th from 11:00-12:00 pm, both will be at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 552 East 11400 South, Draper, UT. Interment will follow at Memorial Mountain View Cemetery, 3115 East 7800 South, Cottonwood Heights, Utah.

Dad, thank you for showing your strength, work ethic, and instilling within us the joy of the gospel and the blessings that come through our Savior Jesus Christ. Because of you we fully understand the meaning of eternal families and the importance of them in our lives. Thank you for your example of serving others selflessly, to forgive others, and to be trustworthy and honest. Forever, your loving and grateful children.

“The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.” - Benjamin Disraeli



Saturday, Apr. 13, 2024 8:45 AM - 10:45 AM
The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter day Saints
552 East 11400 South
Draper, UT 84121

Funeral Service

Saturday, Apr. 13, 2024 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter day Saints
552 East 11400 South
Draper, UT 84121


Saturday, Apr. 13, 2024 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Memorial Mountain View Cemetery
3115 East Bengal Blvd
Cottonwood Heights, UT 84121

Services Handled By

Memorial Mountain View Mortuary & Cemetery
3115 East 7800 South
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Life Story Info

Post Date

Apr 10, 2024

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