Cover photo for Don Ray Helms's Obituary
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1938 Don 2021

Don Ray Helms

December 17, 1938 — August 10, 2021

Don Ray Helms, 82, of Bellevue passed away peacefully after a short illness on Tuesday, August 10, 2021, at his home surrounded by his family. 

A celebration of Don’s life will be with a funeral service at 10:00 a.m. Monday, August 16, at Hachmann-Mier Funeral Home & Cremation Service in Bellevue. A visitation will be from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 15, also at the funeral home.

Don was born to Kenneth Lee and Mildred Lenora (Thomas) Helms on December 17, 1938 in Warrick County, Indiana. He was named after Don Ameche, a popular movie star in the 1930's.  He grew up in Paradise, Indiana and graduated from Newburgh High School in 1956.  Don earned his Bachelors of Science in Wildlife from Purdue University in 1961 and his Masters of Science in Fisheries from Southern Illinois University in 1964.  Don married Bonnie Tichenor on September 10, 1961.  They moved to Swisher, Iowa in 1964.  In 1966, they moved to Bellevue, where they raised four children.

Don worked for the Iowa Conservation Commission (now the DNR) 1964-1977 as a fisheries research biologist. For 10 years, he was Iowa's only fisheries biologist assigned to the Mississippi River.  After leaving this position, he was employed as a consultant for a Colorado firm (Ecology Consultants, Inc. which later became ERT/Environmental Research & Technology).  He managed their Mississippi River field office in Bellevue.  He was also Project Manager for the monitoring of Commonwealth Edison's 16-megawatt nuclear power station near Cordova, IL to determine its effects on the Mississippi River. 

In 1986 he started his own consulting business, Helms & Associates. He conducted numerous surveys and assessments for the presence of threatened and endangered species with a specialty in freshwater mussels.  Don is well-known in the mussel community and highly regarded for his expertise.

In addition, Don enjoyed trapping turtles, digging ginseng, fur trapping, and other miscellaneous outdoor activities. He was an avid gardener with three large gardens.  He grew corn, beans, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, and more.  He also had a vineyard and several types of fruit trees.  What he did not eat or give away, he and the family would can and freeze for winter or off season use.  Don was also the family historian.  He spent many hours researching and documenting the family genealogy including visiting gravesites across the Midwest.  He has records for over 15,000 individuals.  Before her death in 2018, Don’s life was devoted to “his Bonnie”.  Even after her death, he shared a special bond with her and would keep fresh flowers from his garden and yard on her grave.    

Don is survived by his four children, Scott Helms (Reena Winkowski), of Bellevue; Jane (Walter) Wickham, of Maquoketa; Lisa Dague, of Urbandale, Iowa; and Susan (Daryl) Hankemeier, of Bellevue; 13 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. One brother, Kenneth (Judy) Helms of Sharpsville, Indiana.  

Don was preceded in death by his wife, Bonnie, and his parents.

In lieu of flowers, memorial may be directed to the family for a special fund in Don’s memory for local Department of Natural Resources.

Online condolences may be left for the family at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Don Ray Helms, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Sunday, August 15, 2021

1:00 - 4:00 pm (Central time)

Hachmann-Mier Funeral Home & Cremation Service

100 N 6th St, Bellevue, IA 52031

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Monday, August 16, 2021

Starts at 10:00 am (Central time)

Hachmann-Mier Funeral Home & Cremation Service

100 N 6th St, Bellevue, IA 52031

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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