Madera County Sheriff’s Department Matron Lucille Helm, 44, and Sgt. George Harvey Terry, 53, were killed in a traffic accident on July 13, 1959.
Deputies Oscar Lloyd De Vaney, Terry and Helm were southbound on Highway 99, just north of the Madera-Merced County line, and were returning from Modesto where they had delivered a female mental patient. Helm had accompanied the deputies to assist in caring for the patient. A male prisoner, Joe Robinson, 32, who was being returned to Madera, was riding in the back seat with De Vaney while Terry, the driver, and Helm were in the front seat.
The accident occurred when a 78-year-old man, Thomas Alford Henry, had a heart attack while driving his car northbound, crossed the divider strip between the north and southbound traffic lanes and smashed head-on into the Sheriff’s Department car. The divider strip had no barrier other than bushes that also blocked the view of drivers on one side of the highway from vehicles going the other direction.
Both vehicles were demolished. Terry, Helm and Henry were killed instantly while DeVaney was critically injured. Robinson suffered minor injuries.
Helm was born Marie Lucille Simmons on July 24, 1914, in Tulare, California to H.C. and Gladys Simmons. She was raised in Tulare where she attended the public schools and graduated from Tulare High School in 1932.
She was a housewife who worked as an extra help or relief employee who remained on call for the Sheriff’s Department. On several occasions she was recruited to help transport female prisoners for the Department and, when doing so, was always sworn in as a deputy sheriff. She was sworn in on July 13, 1959, for the mission that resulted in her death. The Madera newspaper indicated that she was a 15-year veteran indicating that she had worked as a relief worker for the Sheriff’s Department for 15 years at the time of her death.
Helm was survived by her husband, Madera County Identification Officer William O. Helm, 45, and four children, Roger, 22, Margo, 18, Claudia, 10, and Paul 7, all of Madera; a grandson, Mark Helm, 1; father, H.C. Simmons; and two brothers, Kenneth and Howard.
Funeral services for Helm were held at her home church, the First Church of God in Madera. Rev. Howard Kernutt officiated at the service that was private.
Burial followed at Arbor Vitae Cemetery in Madera. Deputy Terry was buried in the same cemetery later that day.