ELYSBURG — Edward William Helfrick (“Senator Ed”), 93, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, at Maria Saint Joseph Manor in Danville.
Senator Ed was born on March 11, 1928, in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, a son of the late Edward J. and Elizabeth (Rosenberger) Helfrick. He graduated from Mount Carmel High School in 1945 and served in the U.S. Army from 1945 to 1946 as a paratrooper in the Pacific during World War II with the 11th Airborne Division. On Nov. 27, 1952, Thanksgiving Day, he married Rose Marie Chikajlo, of Mount Carmel, and raised five children in Bear Gap, Pennsylvania.
Senator Ed was once co-owner of several anthracite coal production and related businesses as well as a two-term Republican member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (107th District) from 1977 to 1980 and a six-term Republican member of the Senate of Pennsylvania (27th District) from 1981 to 2003 representing all of Northumberland, Snyder, Montour and Columbia Counties and sections of Luzerne and Dauphin counties. Prior to being convinced by Republican Party officials to run for state House of Representatives in 1976, he had never stepped foot in the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Senator Ed donated his first year’s salary to the St. Joseph’s Children Hospital in Reading, Pennsylvania.
During his career in the Senate, he authored more than 500 bills or amendments that were signed into law. He leaves a legacy in Harrisburg including the “Safe Haven Act,” the 2002 law that allows hospitals to accept unwanted newborn babies. His fight for pro-life issues and passionate opposition to the death penalty won him admirers as well as critics. He received numerous awards from community groups and organizations for his work on their behalf including the Pennsylvania State Fish & Game Protection Association Gold Medal, the Pennsylvania Right for Work Statesman of the Year, the National Federation of Independent Business Guardian of Small Business Award, the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Club Legislator of the Year and a Lincoln Heritage Institute Guardian Award. In 2017, the Edward W. Helfrick Resource Management Center in Aristes was dedicated in his name for his last major accomplishment in office that involved the transfer of private land to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, establishing the Roaring Creek Tract of the Weiser State Forest in Eastern Pennsylvania.
Edward’s involvement in the anthracite coal industry began in the 1940s when he and a high school pal, Robert Kerris, purchased a truck from a junkyard and started hauling coal to Philadelphia alternating the days they would skip school. They eventually turned the business into a major coal mining and excavating operation. During these years, in the mid-1950s, when the local coal industry experienced a serious economic downturn, the partners ventured to French Guyana in South America to dredge for gold in the extremely harsh conditions. A few years later, they sold their profitable venture to a South American firm and returned to Pennsylvania to concentrate on anthracite coal.
In the late 1950s, their business was officially incorporated as Kerris and Helfrick, Inc. and by the 1960s, Kerris and Helfrick had the largest anthracite mining operation and was largest employer in the Shamokin area until 1986 when operations ceased due to a union strike. In 1966, Kerris and Helfrick purchased the Glen Burn Colliery from Susquehanna Coal Co. In 1968, they started the Bear Gap Stone Quarry in Bear Gap, and in 1969, they acquired the International Truck dealership to form Norco Truck and Diesel.
Senator Ed also served as a director of the First National Trust Bank and Susquehanna Bancshares, Inc., Sunbury, member of the Northumberland County Airport Authority and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Boy Scouts council and attended the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Elysburg. He was a member of numerous civic and fraternal organizations including the American Legion Post No. 804, the VFW, Knights of Columbus, Elks, Eagles, Moose, and several area fire companies.
Senator Ed was a former aircraft and helicopter pilot and also raced stock cars in his 20s at Selinsgrove Speedway and other tracks in the area. He loved the outdoors and was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed hiking, hunting, boating and fishing. In 2009, at the age of 81, he was awarded a world angling record from International Game Fish Association (IGFA) for his record catch of a 45.3-pound black grouper caught on 12-pound test line in Key Largo, Florida. Upon retirement, the Senator split his time between his farm home and in Bear Gap and his winter home in Key Largo, Florida.
Senator Ed is survived by his wife, Rose Marie (“Rosie Dear”), of 69 years and his five children, Mary Rose Diefenderfer, of Custer, Washington; Kathy Whittington (Michael), of Reston, Virginia; Diane Cooper (Pete), of Key West, Florida; Edward Helfrick Jr. (Ruthann), of Elysburg, Pennsylvania; and Susan Helfrick (John Scelfo), of Longboat Key, Florida. He also leaves behind his grandchildren, Brendan, Brittany and Colin Whittington and Jonathan Helfrick; a sister, Agnes Hunt of Asbury Park, New Jersey; sisters-in-law Loretta Chicalo and Loraine Chicalo along with numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his brother, John Helfrick, and his sister, Elizabeth Thomas, and many of his lifelong friends and colleagues.
The family extends its sincere gratitude to caregivers, especially his daughter-in-law, Ruthann, and Linette Snyder, of Herndon, who served as his primary caregivers making his final days comfortable.
HELFRICK — Edward William Helfrick (“Senator Ed”), 93, of Elysburg. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held 11 a.m. Monday in the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church, 599 W. Center St., Elysburg, with Father Patrick Devine officiating. Entombment will follow in All Saints Cemetery, Elysburg. Viewing will be held in the lobby of the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Parish Center from 9 a.m. until the time of the Mass. In lieu of flowers, and because of his passion for stray dogs, please make donations in memory of Senator Ed to mostlymuttsonline.com. Arrangements are in care of C. J. Lucas Funeral Home Inc., 27 N. Vine Street, Mount Carmel, PA 17851, C. J. Lucas IV, supervisor. To send condolences to the family please visit www.cjlucasfuneralhome.com