'Mike' Helfrich Jr., Realtor

C. V.

September 01, 1993|By Staff Report

Campbell Vernon "Mike" Helfrich Jr., a Realtor and appraiser who led a successful campaign to curb commercialization along Frederick Road in Catonsville, died last Wednesday of natural causes at his Catonsville home. He was 81.

He used his knowledge of real estate and zoning laws to galvanize the West Catonsville neighborhood in opposition to proposed commercial development along Frederick Road, west of Catonsville, beginning in 1956 and ending with the last court trial in 1986.

He and neighbors took the issue to the Maryland Court of Appeals and successfully thwarted additional commercialization.

"I knew him as both an attorney and a judge," recalled retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge Frank Cicone. "He was admired and respected in his field -- a professional. I always had the greatest respect and confidence in his testimony even though we were sometimes on opposite sides in cases."

According to family members, Mr. Helfrich's strength as an appraiser was his meticulous preparation and forensic ability in the courtroom. He was able to explain the most complicated appraisal in a way jurors and judges understood and opposing attorneys found difficult to cross-examine.

In 1983, still active as a real estate appraiser, he was honored for 50 years of distinguished service as a member of both the Howard and Baltimore County appraisers' societies. He had been a past president of both groups.

Also that year, he was named "Realtor emeritus" by the National Association of Realtors.

He was born in Catonsville, attended Baltimore City College and graduated from Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia in 1929. He attended St. John's College in Annapolis for two years.

He left college during the Depression to open his own business, the Unique Shop at Catonsville Junction, a secondhand store. He began his career as a Realtor and appraiser in 1933. Also in 1933, he married the former Stasia Fields, who died in 1970.

At 32, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and graduated from training as a warrant officer. He then saw duty at the Cherry Point Marine Air Base in North Carolina.

He was an active member of the Catonsville Rotary Club and in 1946 and 1947, chaired the group's drive that amassed tons of scrap metal at a collection point on Old Frederick Road to be recycled into much-needed iron and steel.

He also chaired a program to plant trees in the median strip of U.S. 40. Some of those trees survive today in spite of the widening of the road in 1951.

He was a member of the Catonsville United Methodist Church, serving as an usher and head usher for more than 50 years.

He commented in later years that he felt he had trained more ministers than most divinity schools. He took pride in acquainting new ministers with the church.

During his tenure on the board of trustees, he became interested the church's history, which led him to write a book, "History of Catonsville United Methodist Church," published in 1983. At the time of his death, he was working on an addendum, covering the church's history from 1983 to 1993.

He is survived by a son, Cornelius David Helfrich of Bel Air; three grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

Memorial donations may be made to Catonsville United Methodist Church or the Boumi Temple Burn Center, c/o the Boumi Temple, 4900 N. Charles St., Baltimore.

* Services were held Monday.

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