Lt. John C. Helmick, who friends and comrades said epitomized dedication, loyalty, and friendship, was honored and remember by family, friends, and hundreds of uniformed officers from California, Nevada and Oregon.
Adorned in ceremonial dress, an estimated 500 officers from more than 12 jurisdictions joined the Red Bluff community at the Elks Lodge to pay last respects to the 20-year CHP veteran, husband, and father of five.
Helmick who lost his life Monday, February 27, in an auto accident in Chico, was the highest-ranking CHP officer and first area commander to die in the line of duty in CHP history.
The ceremony was one of the largest ever held for a fallen CHP officer according to the CHP Northern Division public affairs coordinator.
Helmick, 42, had served as the Red Bluff area commander since June 1988. During his tenure, he provided sound leadership and guidance, and unconditional friendship, fellow officers said.
He also was the quintessential family man.
“I remember going over to John’s house, and he would be mowing the lawn with his kid in one of those holders on his back,” said Sgt. Kirk Mitchell, who served with Helmick in San Diego and later in Red Bluff. “I think I can best explain my feelings about John (through) my admiration for him as a father, boss, and as a man.
“He was my friend. I’m going to miss him a lot.”
Redwood City CHP Lt. Alex Jones described Helmick as “an impact player.”
“His spirit, strong will, unshakable sense of integrity and loyalty has given each of us a gift, a gift of example that will guide us throughout our lives,” said Jones, who delivered a eulogy, along with Bakersfield CHP Capt. Rich Breedveld.
“John was also the guy we turned to to laugh and enjoy life with,” Jones said. “John saw life for what it is – a celebration.”
“I refuse to remain saddened by John’s death,” said Breedveld. “My life has been enriched through his.”
Breedveld recalled when he and Helmick once set off in Helmick’s new boat for Santa Catalina Island off the Southern California coast.
“A mere 120 miles of open ocean lie between us and our destination,” Breedveld said. “I asked John, ‘Are you sure that you know how to navigate?’ He assured me that there was no need for navigation, that he had a plan. His plan was to follow the coastline north until he saw Catalina, and hang a hard left.
“I had many such trips with John, and I will remember them all.”
The Rev. Steve Igarta of the First Church of God described Helmick as a loyal public servant. “A tragic loss is made bearable by the model of John’s life. This would be an excellent time for us to realize just how fortunate we are in America, to have such dedicated, devoted, and disciplined persons keeping our community safe,” he said.
“I’m sure John would say to you, ‘Carry on, please carry on.’ ”
Cars along Red Bluff streets slowed as a motorcade of patrol cars and motorcycles, lights flashing, led a procession to Oak Hill Cemetery for graveside services.
Officers formed columns around the burial site, and saluted as a CHP plane and helicopter flew overhead.
It’s important for the family to understand that their loved ones are part of our law enforcement family,” said Gudath. “Law enforcement in general feels a bond with one another, and police honor demonstrations such as this show family and all law enforcement officers that we are a family and will stick together through any crisis.”
Helmick was born Nov. 5, 1946 in Oroville. He was a Vietnam war veteran and a member of the Red Bluff Rotary Club. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, and five children: Erika, 18; Brian, 14; Tiffany, 10; Lindsay, 3; and Michael, 1.
“It’s a real loss to the community,” said Mitchell. “We’ll continue on with John’s philosophies and work ethic. He provided leadership and guidance. I respected him a lot. He was just a real, caring loving father.”
– Red Bluff California Daily News
– San Jose Mercury News