Dedication to others a big factor for Hellman family
Faith, family and community are three highly valued traits in the Hellman family of Humboldt.
Cecelia and Henry Hellman moved to the Humboldt area in 1963 and raised nine children. They are proud grandparents of 29 and great-grandparents to 34 youngsters.
As a teenager, Cecelia, the matriarch of the Hellmans, hadn't expected to have any children. She entered a convent as a 16 year old, but was sent away after contracting tuberculosis a year and a half later. Both her father and an aunt died of TB, she said.
Having gone to Catholic school with the nuns, becoming one herself was an easy decision.
"I was going to be a music teacher, but I came down with TB. I hemorrhaged everywhere and they gave me a ticket home," Cecelia said, describing how she ran down the hallway with her hands at her mouth, blood dripping on the immaculate floors.
"They didn't have the facilities to take care of TB patients. Back in those days, it was pretty treacherous and contagious. They had the girls in my class tested and x-rayed.
"I spent a year in a TB sanatorium in Tempe. I was supposed to have died. I was supposed to never have children; the doctors told me, 'It would kill you to have one,'" Cecelia said.
It was during labor with her seventh child that Cecelia's damaged lung, which had collapsed 20 years before, suddenly expanded. Both lungs are still operating fine, she said, even with the scar tissue left behind by the disease.
"I had six boys, and all but one weighed from 10 to 12 pounds," she said.
Cecelia's family has a history of serving the religious community, with two aunts and her daughter becoming nuns.
The daughter, Mary, knew at the age of 4 that she would be a nun. By the time she entered as a 14 years old, however, the nuns no longer wore a habit, a great disappointment, she said.
Mary founded and runs a mission school for girls in Guatemala. The money to build the school for Mayan children came from her parents.
"We sold some property in Arizona and said, 'We have some money and we don't need it,'" Cecelia said. She and Henry decided to donate it to the mission and called Mary who suggested building a school. It became a family effort.
"A cousin and an aunt made the curtains. One of my brothers was a cabinet maker and he came down and built the cabinets," Mary said.
This year the Hellmans put together 22 Christmas "goodie bags" for the students that included candy, toys, jewelry and manicure kits. They continue to send money to help with construction.
Henry Hellman spent 17 years as a justice of the peace for Mayer. His family owned a dairy on the Tempe-Phoenix border for about 25 years. Several of his family members have worked for Central Yavapai Fire Department and in law enforcement.
Henry met Cecelia in 1945 just after Henry's discharge from the service. They married in April 1946.
Becoming foster and adoptive parents, too, appears to be a family trait in addition to the other aspects of service to community. The Hellmans raised six foster sons alongside their biological six sons and three daughters. Henry's mother took in troubled boys when they lived on the dairy farm.
That is why photographs cover an entire wall in the living room. Henry built the home in 1971 that stands on a hill above Highway 69 and includes a billiards table in the front room.
In April, the Hellmans will celebrate their 62nd anniversary. It's a sure bet they will be adding some new photographs to the family wall.