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Obituaries » Dolores O. Hellmuth

Dolores O. Hellmuth

August 8, 1923 - May 3, 2017


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Dolores Odella Hellmuth (Carl) was born in San Diego, (Ocean Beach), California on August
8, 1923, to Aletha Mae Carl (Chappelle) 1905-1975, and Donald Dewey Carl 1896-1957. Her
mother Aletha was an only child, her father Donald was the second youngest of 7. The Carl
Family children were all born in Iowa, and later moved to a Minnesota farm in Ortonville, MN.
Dolores was born in the seaside village of Ocean Beach, California, in her grandfather’s
home, Dr. Lewis Chappelle (1871-1959), and Irene Chappelle (McDaniels) (1870-1950). The
Chappelle’s had moved to California from Grand Rapids Michigan, where Dr. Chappelle
had been a physician, and Kent County Coroner. Her parents met, and were married in
San Diego in 1922. Dolores is the eldest of her parent’s children, her sister was 2 years
younger, Patricia Dewees (Carl) “Pattie” (1925-2002).
The story has often been told that she grew up in a house with lots of love, but limited means,
especially after the great stock crash in 1929, and the ensuing Great Depression. Her
grandfather Carl, had been a successful farmer, but lost his savings in 1929. Her grandfather
Chappelle had been a successful physician as well. They lived in a quiet town, where
everyone new everyone. Every neighbor was taken care of by Dr. Chappelle. When
Dolores was 8 or 9 years old she developed pneumonia that turned out to be a
complication of Tuberculosis. Her hospital doctors wanted to put her in the county
sanatorium (Vulcan), but her grandfather felt she would die in that home. For a while she
stayed in a hospital closer to their home, and her mother would take the bus each day to
visit her. As part of her recovery effort her grandfather, Dr. Chappelle suggested to her
father that they should seek a drier climate (Ocean Beach has the typical moist beachside
air) where Dolores could have a greater chance of a full recovery. This was in a time before
anti-biotics, and TB could be fatal for children.
In 1933 President Roosevelt had opened up some government land to homesteaders all over
the United States as part of the post WWI GI’s benefit package, as well as an effort to
develop un-used land. One area was in the Laguna Mountains, in eastern San Diego
County (now part of a National Park) and the only requirement was that you had to build a
home on the land. Dolores’ father homesteaded a piece of property (10 acres) (elevation
6,300’) and their whole family came and held a “home-raising”! They had no electricity or
water. Her father tried to install a well and dug for water where the “water witch” told him.
He dug down about 65’ and both girls would lower and raise him with a “windlass”. He
would pass buckets of dirt up from the hole for the girls to empty. They never found water!
Each day they would drive in the old Dodge that was made into a truck 2 to 3 miles away
and fill 2 to 3 water cans. The whole family was in an auto accident sometime in the mid
1930’s on one return trip to San Diego in that same truck.
Their wood stove was their only source of heat and where their mother cooked all their
meals- including the baking of the family bread. They read books and played a lot of
games. The county paid them to drive the children to school 17 miles away! The Jessie
Morse family lived nearby and the dads would take turns driving the children to the one
room schoolhouse. During the winter the family would move in with their grandparents
because it was too cold and too much snow in the mountains. This time in the mountains
provided the dry climate that she needed, and did recover completely from the TB.
Dolores’ father was a soldier(Marine) in WWI, deployed to Asia, when on a boat traveling up
the Yangtze River in China was shot in the stomach with a brass button-used for ammunition!!
“I thought sure it was curtains!”, he said. He also spoke of a love affair with a Russian girl
during the war. Dolores father as a World War I veteran and was given $1500.00 which they
used to buy a home when they moved back to San Diego. Dolores and her sister attended
Point Loma High School. She remembers the Depression and the bread lines, fireside chats of
FDR, and hearing news via the radio. Because her mother did not drive, she could not get to
the local school where they were handing out surpluses of food. There was only manual
labor work for her father. They had no refrigeration until after both sisters were married, just
ice box coolers.
Dolores was 15 years old when she met Walter William Hellmuth (German/French), the eldest
boy of eight children (1919-1980), at a roller skating rink (Memorial Day Weekend) Walter Sr.
was 19, at the time, and an enlisted seaman in the US Navy, serving from 1936 until 1940.
One could say it was love at first sight!!! By early September1939, with a friend driving, they
eloped to Yuma, AZ to be married (September 10th, 1939, ages 16, and 20 by then). Her
parents found out about their marriage because her sister “squealed” on them! Her father’s
response was “If you’re married you better apply for a spouse allotment for her” (Food
shortages were still prevalent at the time). Their first child, Valerie Irene Hellmuth (Sullivan
1940-1988) was born 10 months and 11 days later, June 21st, 1940.
After they were married, in 1939, Walter shipped out to Honolulu as part of the Pacific Fleet
stationed in San Diego. He still had a year to go on his 4-year enlistment. He was a naval
radio man (Morse Code) on the USS Cincinnati, a light cruiser, which was part of the task
force looking for Emelia Earhart (1937), and also the tribute fleet for the opening of the
Golden Gate Bridge (1939). He was also stationed in Vallejo, CA. for a short time at Mare
Island NAS, while the ship was being overhauled. He made extra money on the ship by
taking in laundry! He joined the Navy to escape difficult economic life his family endured in
Philadelphia (a family of 8 children on one income during the Great Depression). While in
high school his father made him go to trade school where he learned carpentry, and
drafting, which he later put to good use. (Walter’s father wanted him to stay in the Navy
because he felt he could earn a good pension. He didn’t want to be a “career man”.) His
enlistment in the Navy ended in late 1940. During the early part of WWII, he was a foreman
in the Consolidated Aircraft factory, and did not return to military service, due to a heart
condition. All the children in the Hellmuth family had Rheumatic Fever as children, and had
lifelong health consequences. Dolores also worked at Consolidated Aircraft (1942-1943) at
the beginning of WWII, in the drop-hammer, and hydro-press department, making airplane
parts for B-32’s, part of the liberation air fleet for the D-Day invasion.
Walter Sr. built their first home in Ocean Beach, CA. (using had tools, no power tools)-
“Canary Cottage”- a 400 square foot Cape Cod which served as the template for the future
homes he would build. It was right next door to her grandparents. Walter Sr. purchased
several different lots in Ocean Beach, but used the same floor plan. Canary Cottage had a
secret staircase to an upstairs bedroom for Valerie.
While living in Ocean Beach Valerie had two of the same teachers as her mother. Valerie
went to Pt. Loma schools until the age of 15 when they moved to Lompoc, CA. At one point
Valerie was sent off to boarding school, and later graduated from Point Loma HS in 1958.
After the end of WWII, Walter Sr. started his first business, opening a self-service laundry, then
opening an appliance repair business, then opening a wholesale appliance sales business,
all of which were successful. At the same time, he did build a larger home for them in Point
Loma, there was a story in the local paper about it. Later they had an even nicer home in
Alpine, Ca. that they bought from the proceeds of the motel they had owned and operated
in Ocean Beach, called the Ebb Tide. Walter Sr. parents had moved out to California during
this time, and sadly his mother passed away suddenly when she arrived in California.
In 1955 Walter Sr. responded to an advertisement in the local paper asking if anyone was
interested in trading a hotel in Lompoc, CA. (Lompoc Hotel), for property in San Diego.
Lompoc was the “Seed Capitol of the World” (Burpees Seed Company, etc.) and the
government opened Vandenberg AFB shortly after they traded the house in Alpine for this
small hotel. The hotel had 40 rooms, and Walter Sr. proceeded to remodel/improve the
whole facility, including a shopping arcade, and renamed it La Purisima Inn! This business
boomed, because of the growth of the area surrounding V-AFB. At one point, it had two
restaurants, a saloon, dress shop, and other small shops, besides the hotel itself. In 1956, as
the junior senator from Massachusetts, JFK, made visit to V-AFB, and was hosted at the L.P.I
by Walter and Dolores, Dolores prepared the luncheon. It was too much for the one maid,
and so Dolores made beds, and worked in the kitchen on a regular basis!!! Walter Sr.’s
father, Albert, joined the effort as well. At the same time raising a teenage daughter.
Valerie would meet, and later marry her husband Jerry Sullivan, in 1958, after they met in the
hotel’s coffee shop. Late in 1959 they decided to sell the hotel, as it was an all-consuming
endeavor for a small family.
By early 1960, Walter Sr. still had businesses in San Diego, Lompoc, and several of his siblings,
and cousins had moved to California. So Walter Sr. would go back-and-forth between these
towns. Walter Jr. was born in 1960 in Santa Barbara. From mid-1960, until 1967 the family
lived in La Jolla, CA., where Walter Sr. became an important local developer of small
commercial buildings. In 1967 the family moved to Santa Barbara. They joined All Saints By-
The Sea Church where Walter, and young Rev. Peter Snow (the assistant Rector) became
very good friends. From S.B. they traveled up to S.F., to St. Benedict’s Center for a Cursillo
weekend in 1972. (The Hellmuth side of the family were the Episcopalians, because of Walter
Sr.’s mother side of the family. Dolores started out at the Methodist Church.
In 1973, the Hellmuth’s moved to a lovely horse ranch in Santa Ynez Valley, their daughter,
husband, and children came as well, and for a while it was quite a team, growing a garden,
raising two cows, several sheep, two steers, chickens, an old cat, a new dog, etc. There was
also a small 2 acre vineyard on the property, so Walter Sr. made some homemade wine.
This sparked a new interest in Walter Sr. to make wine on a larger scale, after making a trip to
St. Helena in 1974 looking for wine making equipment. Walter Sr’s sister Helen (Dolly) came
to live and work on the ranch as well.
So, in the summer of 1976 Walter Sr. found, and bought a 25 acre vineyard property in St.
Helena, Ca. and moved there to start a wine business. At first, it was a bit of a disaster
because the old farm house was in very bad repair. And, the vineyard was in bad shape
because of the 1975-1977 drought. Their nice furniture ended up stored in the barn for a
while, while the 3 lived in a 3-room farm laborer’s cottage. The quick solution was to
renovate the barn, because the main house was going to take two years to fix. Carpenter
Chris Hawley was hired to make it livable, and, including a fancy staircase to the barn’s loft
used as a bedroom, and a wood stove for heat. It was a stressful time all around, trying to
make the vineyard recover from lack of rain, trying to live in constant construction project,
and trying to obtain a use permit for a winery on the site. By mid-1978 the main house was
complete in time for Walter Jr’s graduation from High School. Later when they sold the
vineyard to the Steen & Finkelstein families who started Whitehall Lane Winery. While in St.
Helena they joined Grace Episcopal Church and developed a lifelong friendship with the
Tumilty family (the Rector of Grace Episcopal Church at the time).
In the summer of 1979, after the vineyard was sold, they moved back to Santa Barbara
where Walter passed away suddenly in his sleep in December 1980, while his sister Helen
(Dolly) was visiting. It was a shocking event, but not so shocking since Walter Sr. had a long
history of heart trouble.
During the early 1980’s Dolores moved several times, after selling the house in Santa Barbara
in 1984, for a while she lived in San Diego, then moved back to St. Helena, then into San
Francisco for a year to go to art school, but learned that her daughter, who had been
diagnosed with cancer in 1984, had a re-occurrence in 1987.
Dolores always loved the mountains, but could not live there with Walter because of his
heart condition. So she moved up to Tahoe part-time first, eventually full-time and lived in
Homewood, CA. for almost 8 years beginning in 1986. At first she bought a smaller home but
purchased a bigger one to accommodate visiting family. Her nephew Tom Fehrle (sister in
law’s Helen’s son) helped her renovate both properties. While there she played golf and
bridge and entertained many family members that would come to the mountains. She also
owned some apartments in Kentfield, Ca. for 4 years until October 1992.
In 1992 she left Tahoe and moved to Sonoma, for two years, then to San Diego for two years,
then back to Sonoma for 5 years, then to Sebastopol for 5 years, and now has resided in
Petaluma for the last 11 years.
There are some other family adventures mixed in here and there, include 6 months on a USCanada
trip in a trailer visiting 36 states in 1970. A posh trans-Atlantic trip on a superliner in
1965. A trip to the middle east in 1976. She went to Indonesia, including Bali, in 1994 with
some dear friends. And went on several cruises in the Caribbean Sea with a gal pal in the
1990s. Mexico in 1997, and Alaska in 2000.
She also was a hospital volunteer at Palm Drive in Sebastapol, and later at Petaluma Valley
Hospital until 2010. She has been a devoted, and dedicated member of the Episcopal
Church for over 65 years, participating in many roles of church life, including the Vestry, Alter
Guild, and organized many church fundraisers, participating in 13 Curisillo Retreats, dozens of
luncheons, and most recently, a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Petaluma.
Dolores is survived by her son, Walter A. Hellmuth of Petaluma, CA; her 4 Grandchildren,
Crystal Marler (husband Dan), Brian Sullivan, Heather Sullivan, and Melissa Sexton (husband
Rich); 13 Great-Grandchildren; Shay, and Karina; Beau, Matthew, Lucas, Josh, Summer,
Cheyenne, Dillan, and Elijiah, (and their Mom RoxAnne); Aubrey, and Orion (and their Dad
Philip); and Ian; and we think a total of 16 Great-Great Grandchildren, including Preslee,
Jocelynn, Andrew, Lauren, Indigo, Juniper, Kristina, Dustin, Scarlett, Jaxon, Ethan, Caden,
Fallyn, Braelynn,?,? ; many nieces and nephews and extended family including Nancy;
Debbie; Sue, Tom; Rita, Jerry; John, Cami; Judy, Paul; Tamara, David; Kim, Mark (W); Mark,
Catherine; and Kari, and Mark; Frank, and Gloria. Her husband, Walter Sr., daughter Valerie,
and son-in-law Jerry, went on before her.
Dolores died in the early morning on May 3rd, 2017, after a short illness. A Celebration of Life,
and Memorial Service will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 40 5th Street, Petaluma, Ca.
at 2pm on Saturday May 27th, 2017. Reception to follow. In lieu of flowers please make
contributions to the St. John’s Episcopal Church, Petaluma, Endowment Fund, in her name.

Arrangements in the care of Adobe Creek Funeral Home & Cremation Services