Mr. Bill C. Helms
b. 16 June 1933 - Monroe, NC
d. 21 June 2008 - Yorktown, VA - age 75

East Carolina College, B. S.
College of William and Mary: M. S.

Physical Education, Hygiene, Drivers Training, Assistant Football Coach, 
Assistant Baseball Coach, Assistant Basketball Coach; Co-Sponsor Key Club

1959 Anchor, p. 43 1959 Anchor, p. 71 1962 Anchor, p. 26  
1st Row
: Center and line coach, John Palmer; head coach, J. C. Range; back coach, Charlie Nuttycombe; 2nd Row: Line coach, Bill Helms; end coach, Charles Driesell; back and J. V. coach, Jack Powers."
06/23/08 05/11/04 06/23/08 06/23/08

Bill C. Helms

YORKTOWN - Bill C. Helms, passed away peacefully on Saturday, June 21, 2008.

He was born in Monroe, N.C., on June 16, 1933, the son of Odessa Craig Helms and Roy C. Helms.

Bill received his undergraduate degree from East Carolina University while on football scholarship, and his master's degree from William and Mary. He and his wife, Nancy, came to the Peninsula when he started his career as a coach and physical education teacher at old Newport News High School. From there he moved to York County, where he became Principal of Bethel Manor Elementary School. He retired from Tabb Elementary School as Principal.

For many years Bill was active in the Exchange Club and at one time served as State President. He was a U.S. Army veteran, having served during the Korean Conflict.

He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother and friend to all who knew him.

He is survived by his wife, Dr. Nancy Eddins Helms, formerly of Rockingham, N.C.; two sons, Kyle Helms and wife, Dana of Newport News, and Craig Helms of Williamsburg; grandchildren, Kellie Helms Rush and husband, Steven of Quantico, Amy Helms McQuaig of Newport News, Cody Helms of Williamsburg, Lyndsay Hagedorn and husband, Rob of Pensacola, Fla., Brandon Ward of Newport News; two great-granddaughters, Avery McQuaig and Aubrey Rush; a brother, Jerry Helms and wife, Carolyn, of Belmont, N.C.; and a sister, Betty Bivens and husband, Charles, of Monroe, N.C.

Visitation will be from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 24, 2008, at W. J. Smith & Son Funeral Home.

A graveside service will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, June 25, 2008, at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church Cemetery, 1247 Sandhill Road, Rockingham, N.C.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, Cemetery Fund, 1247 Sandhill Road, Rockingham, NC 28379-8858.

Arrangements by W. J. Smith & Son Funeral Home. View and post condolences on our online guestbook at .

Published in the Daily Press on 6/23/2008.
Guest Book

I was saddened to see the passing of Coach Bill Helms. He was my gym teacher for 3 years I believe. He always acted tough and loved barking his orders in gym classes. But, at least the way I saw him, he was really a softy and quite caring of his students. I see he was an elementary school principal for several years so this shows the kind of man he must have been.

One of the things we had to accomplish in gym, the boys at least, was to climb "the rope". You had to climb it to the top of the gym, touch the top, and scoot back down. Coach Helms had worked with getting me further up the rope each time I climbed. Finally, it was either 10th or 11th grade, I made it to the top and started down. Well, I fear heights terribly so about three feet from the top I froze. Coach Helms and Coach Range were yelling, trying to get me down. I clutched harder to the rope. Coach Range was mad and fussing but Coach Helms saw this a big problem. Everybody was tense and I was just plain old scared. Coach Helms said that I had to come down one way or the other. So I just let go and plunged toward the floor. Coach Helms braced himself and the moment I hit bottom he grabbed me breaking my fall. I went to the floor but not hard. Coach Helms was shaking and Coach Range shared his temper with me a bit.

As the gym was winding down for the day Coach Helms came over to me putting his finger in my chest and said "Nichols - don't you ever touch this rope again, and if anyone tries to make you tell them to come see me". But from this adventure came a loose coach/student relationship that I have always held fondly. I think he was a very good man.

- Ed Nichols ('62) of Northern VA - 06/24/08

   What a great memory!  Thank you, Eddie!

Coach Helms died Saturday, June 21, 2008.  He had just turned 75 years old.  When we graduated in June 1958, Coach Helms was 25 years old.
I recall that most of the girls in our class had a crush on Coach Helms.  He had the looks of a movie star a great smile, and was very personable.  Heck, he was hardly older than we were!  The guys recall what a smart guy he was to accept a football scholarship to play for East Carolina right after it converted from an all-female teachers college. I'll never understand how a good looking guy like Coach Helms managed to get a degree from a University that was about 75% female.  How did he concentrate on his studies?
Let me know your favorite Coach Helms story.  Was he your coach or teacher?  What class and/or what sport?

- Joe Drewry ('58) of VA - 06/24/08

Thank you, Joe!


I know it's rare that I respond to your wonderful newsletters, but the death of Bill Helms awakened my memory of my first day of gym class at NNHS. It was September of 1956, and Helms was calling the role. When my name was called, I proudly raised my hand. Instead of going to the next name, Helms hesitated and asked of me, "Is Hinton Parker ('55) your brother"?

Thrilled to be acknowledged, I loudly replied, "Yes, Sir."

Helms shook his head and stated, "S__t, another one!"

The entire class laughed out loud, leaving me humiliated. For the next six years I did my very best to make Helms as miserable as possible. Even after graduation from HS, his three little words followed me forever. Maybe now, in his death, I can let it go. Sorry, but my memories of him are not good ones. The death of any person usually saddens me... this one does not.

You have my permission to include this in your next newsletter, should you dare to do so.

- Jimmy Parker ('62) of VA - 06/26/08

Thank you, Jimmy-Jimmy!

As much as I like to emphasize the positives in life, not all of our high school memories are pleasant ones. Sometimes the ones which burn brightest in our minds are the ones which brought us the most pain. I see no value in denying the existence of such things. I didn't post this on Coach Helms' Memorial Newsletter, but I did add it here. My failure to do so would not only be dishonest, but would invalidate your experience - and I'll not do that.

Of course, I've no idea what motivated Coach Helms, but I've often wondered why people blurt out thoughtless remarks as he did. Do they not consider the consequences? Do they think they're funny? Do they intend to inflict pain, or are they just not thinking at all? It's always troubled me. I'm sorry his remark haunted you for so many years.



- Jimmy Smith ('62) of VA - 06/28/08

The first Anchor in which Coach Helms' portrait appears is the 1958, which may or may not indicate that he did not begin teaching at NNHS until in the fall of 1957. At least two of my teachers taught me in years before their photos were included in the yearbook.  I do not know the answer. After more than 50 years, specific details may tend to blur - and understandably so. The attendant feelings generally remain crystal clear.

   Thanks, Jimmy - and Happy Birthday!


Jimmy) Smith ('62 - of VA) is absolutely correct, and I find myself quite embarrassed. In checking my '57 annual I found that Helms was not in it. My brother (Bubby Parker) graduated in 1955, and Helms did not arrive at NNHS until September of 1957.

So who was it that made the comment I remember so vividly? And I do remember the comment quite vividly. Why I accuse Helms of the statement I will never know. Was it because he harassed for most of the five years I was in his class? I know that now, some fifty years later, my memory is somewhat fuzzy, but I do remember the cruel statement being made in gym class before the entire class. The comment directed to me is not something one makes up or imagines. The obvious fact that Helms did not make the statement still does not leave a warm place in my heart for him. But I do make sincere apologies for falsely accusing the man, and may he rest in peace.

So who make the statement? The possibilities are narrowed somewhat: Coaches Chambers, Conn, Nuttycombe, Range, or Robinson. I doubt it was Chambers, or Nuttycombe, certainly not Robinson, so that leaves either Conn or Range.

Maybe the comment was made in jest, and not meant to cause any harm, but in this case it obviously did. I hope I did not cause you any grief over this.

- Jimmy Parker ('62) of VA - 06/30/08

Any discomfort I felt over this incident pales in comparison to the pain you suffered for over half a century, Jimmy.
I hope this discussion has helped alleviate some of that. The comment may well have been made in jest,
but some things just are not all that funny, as you learned first hand. Thank you so much for this clarification!


All the talk about coaches has encouraged me to pass on my own story about coach Helms and Julie Conn.  In the 11th grade, I had a disagreement with coach Helms about staying in after school because my mom did not have time to write a note one morning to allow me to miss gym class due to a sore leg.  At one point we were in turn presenting our viewpoints in Julie Conn's office while coach Conn was observing and not taking sides.  At some point coach Helms prefaced his argument with "if I can beat this into your thick head" and, being the egalitarian that I am, I came back with the same.  Eventually the argument was taken up to Mr. Keesee's office and after a lot of talk about how he knew my grandfather and other relatives, along with the threat of suspension, I was eventually convinced that it was in my best interest to comply even though I still didn't agree.  The next year, I saw Julie Conn in the hallway after school and he said "Hi, I haven't seen you since you ran coach Helms off."  I could easily tell by the wide grin on his face that he was teasing.  I know that Julie Conn could be a ball of fire when he was angry, but I always felt that he had his heart in the right place.

- Buz Groshong ('63) of Northern VA - 07/02/08

   "Your thick head" ?!? OUCH! If I recall correctly, Buz, you graduated 22nd in your class of 249. Surely something must have been absorbed! Thank you so much for sharing this classic story!

Spinning Football clip art courtesy of - 06/23/08

Animated Army Flag courtesy of - 06/18/03

Exchange Club Logo courtesy of - 06/23/08

Back to Teachers

Return to NNHS Class of 1965