Jess F. Helsel, age 91 of Salem, passed away Sunday, November 20, 2016 at 3:30 am, in his residence. Born December 22, 1924 in Deerfield, Ohio, he was the son of the late Jesse A and Alice Agnes (Bruey) Helsel.
Jess arrived in Salem, Washington County in June 1951. His assignment by then employer, Wel-Met, Inc. Of Kent Ohio, was to oversee the building of a manufacturing plant on West Market Street in Salem. This was the start of the Powder Metallurgy in Washington County, which today provides approximately 900 jobs for the county.
Through the small start, 20 people, and through a series of expansions, a decision was made in 1968 to build another plant located off Beck’s Mill Road. Helsel served as President of the company through a series of mergers to include building the first powder metallurgy operation in Mexico in 1957. During the late 60s, plants were operated in Hagerstown, Indiana, Angola, Indiana, St. Thomas, Ontario and a joint venture in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
In 1974, Helsel acquired a small, struggling plant in Indianapolis and in 1976 relocated it in Campbellsburg, Indiana where it continues as Net Shape.
A believer in community involvement, Helsel has served several terms as a past Director of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce and as it’s President. In 1997, he was chosen as the Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year. He served two terms as Washington County Councilman. He was a charter member of the Washington County Economic Growth Partnership board of Directors and served as its President. He assisted in the formation of the Salem Enterprise Zone and served on it’s board for several years.
On the State scene, he served as President and Director of the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce, President and Director of the Indiana Manufacturers Association, and the Indiana Small Business Council. He was selected by then governor Robert D. Orr to accompany the Governor on an extended tour to China and South Korea to study the automotive industry there and determine how Indiana could enter into that market. Helsel was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Ed Whitcomb in 1971 and was named a Sagamore of the Wabash again in 1988 by Governor Robert Orr. In 2007, Governor Mitch Daniels awarded Helsel the Distinguished Hoosier Award.
Helsel served nine years on the Ivy Tech State Board of Trustees and two terms as it’s President. From a sponsor of early science fairs at West Washington to his years of involvement with Ivy Tech, Helsel has always encouraged better education and learning for all associates. Many Washington County residents owe their degree to his company’s Tuition Aid Program.
Helsel was married to Barbara Ebert Helsel for 63 years before her demise in 2010. They raised three children, Perter, Jessica and Leslie. They enjoyed their rural like while raising kids, Appaloosa horses, Scottish Highland Cattle and other critters, too numerous to mention.
Survivors include: 2 Daughters: Jessica Jane (Don) Craig, Omaha, Nebraska and Leslie Gilstrap, Salem; 8 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by 1 daughter, Holly Beth Helsel, 1 son, Peter F. Helsel and 3 brothers.
Funeral Service: 1:00 pm Tuesday at Dawalt Funeral Home.
Visitation: 4 to 8 pm Monday and 9 am until the time of the service on Tuesday.
Memorial Contributions: Washington County Humane Society / Salem Animal Shelter 204 Joseph Street Salem, Indiana 47167.