Celebration of Life
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations
Obituary of Jay Ely Helme
Jay Ely Helme of Cape Coral, Florida and Middletown, Rhode Island, beloved husband, father and grandfather passed away on January 21, 2019 at 87 years of age. Known to many as The Commodore, he was a larger than life presence full of love, good fellowship and good humor. Family was always his first priority, followed by friends, community and country. Generous to a fault, he shared the selfless values and integrity of the Greatest Generation - his word was his bond. An incredibly well read man, he could converse on almost any topic and offer valuable advice on many. He enjoyed following all sorts of sports, but was most passionate about football - especially when it concerned the New England Patriots and his alma mater, Princeton.
Jay was born in Chestnut Hill, PA to George W. Helme II and Dorothy Ely Helme on June 8, 1931. He graduated from The Penn Charter School in 1950, and went on to earn a degree in economics from Princeton University. He enlisted in the US Army through the ROTC program at Princeton and proudly served at Fort Sill, OK following his graduation. Jay was active in the reserves for several years, closing out his service with an honorable discharge as First Lieutenant, Artillery in 1964.
Jay met the love of his life Mary Bonnage, known as “Bonnie,” while they were both in high school. They were married on August 7, 1952. While raising their four children, Jay and Bonnie divided their time between Apple Lane Farm in Paoli, PA and the family home on Dering Harbor in Shelter Island Heights, NY. They moved to Shelter Island year-round after Jay became an independent consultant, and later spent several happy years in Newport, RI before building their dream home in Cape Coral, FL. In recent years they enjoyed summers in Rhode Island while escaping the cold in Cape Coral during the winter months.
Jay’s distinguished professional career began in marketing and consulting with the firm of Alderson and Sessions in Philadelphia. A health care project which he worked on at Alderson & Sessions led to his being named Executive Director of a new regional hospital and health care facilities advisory agency, the Hospital Survey Committee. The Hospital Survey Committee was a private, non-profit corporation which was active in shaping health care facility development in the Greater Philadelphia area. Health care planning and consulting became Jay’s specialty.
He went on to found sister companies Medicon Inc. and Third Age Inc., serving as Chairman and President of both. Medicon provided general health care consulting services, and Third Age specialized in assisted living and retirement facilities. After Jay and Bonnie decided to move to Shelter Island full time he created an independent consultancy called Helme Associates and continued to serve clients such as Kessler Rehabilitation Center, Southampton Hospital and Newport Hospital well into his 70’s. He left a valuable and lasting legacy of improvements at many of the hospital and health care institutions he worked with.
Jay loved the salt water and was very proud to be a lifelong member of the Shelter Island Yacht Club. He was a flag officer and trustee for many years, serving as Commodore in 1970-71. He helped run the Club’s 85th anniversary and 100th anniversary regattas, and led the club through the acquisition of the adjoining Bull property in the 1970s. In his younger days Jay raced a Star with his brother George, and in later years he sailed a Bristol 34 called Typhoon. Jay was extremely proud and grateful that the SIYC created the Helme Trophy in 1999 to honor his and Bonnie’s contributions over the years. Most recently he was an avid supporter of Shelter Island’s Resolute Cup team and SIYC sailors representing the club in everything from the Olympics to the Sydney Hobart Race. At the time of his passing he was SIYC Member Number 1. He was also a past member of the New York Yacht Club and the Ida Lewis Yacht Club.
His dedication to Shelter Island extended beyond the Yacht Club to the community of Shelter Island Heights. In 1979 he spearheaded the incorporation of the Heights as a non-profit homeowners’ association known as the Shelter Island Heights Property Owners Corporation to ensure that the community would maintain control of its own destiny and hold onto ownership of the North Ferry Company. He served as the POC’s first Chairman from 1979-1986 and was also on the board of the Ferry Company for many years.
Jay is survived by his wife of 67 years Bonnie (nee Mary Elizabeth Snowden Bonnage) and his children: Sally Helme of Middletown RI, Suzy Helme of West Chester PA, Sandy and her husband Gregg Griffin of Southampton NY, and Skip and his wife Nancy Helme of Newport RI. He is also survived by his six grandchildren: Gregg Griffin Jr. of Newport RI, Elizabeth Bowden of Southampton NY, Hayley Bowden of Malvern PA, Morgan Helme of Newport RI, Reese Bowden and Henry Helme also of Newport. His faithful Labrador Wren was his constant companion.
A celebration of his life is planned for 12 Noon on June 14th, 2019 at the Union Chapel in Shelter Island Heights, New York. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to the Union Chapel in the Grove, P.O. Box 326, Shelter Island Heights, NY 11965.
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