BANGOR AND FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. - Mary Jane "Mim" Helfrich died Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, at her home in Bar Harbor, with family at her side. Mim was born Mary Jane Sullivan in October 1937, to parents, Cornelius J. Sullivan and Jane Murphy Sullivan of Hampden. She was a fourth generation Mainer.
Her father owned and operated Sullivan Ford Sales, Bangor, for more than 30 years. Mim attended Bangor High School; University of Michigan
; University of Maine, Orono; and Maxim's Cooking School, Paris. In May 1961, she married William Peter Helfrich in Bangor, and together they raised seven children. Beginning at age 17, Mim was an active member of Junior League of Bangor and Orange County, Calif. She was involved in every aspect of her children's young lives, taking active and leadership roles in parent-teacher associations, church youth groups, scouting and school organizations. She was a lifelong Democrat, who volunteered at the polls for every possible election in heavily Republican Orange County, Calif., and lobbied for education-related causes in the 1970s. She applied her exceptional culinary and organizational skills to various charitable causes, including South Coast Repertory Theater, Orange County Museum of Natural History and Maryknoll, and could whip-up hors d'oeuvres for 200 in a matter of hours. She played bridge with good friends weekly for most of her life and would never step out of a car without checking her lipstick. Mim was very proud of all of her children and as they became adults, devoted her time to traveling around the U.S. among college campuses and big cities where her children had settled. She had an exceptional heart and always made room in her life for family, extended family, friends, friends of friends, children of friends, and even a handful of foreign exchange students and stray cousins. She was very much loved, and in her latest years maintained an extraordinarily positive outlook on life in the face of incredible adversity.
She was predeceased by her former husband, Pete Helfrich; and son, William Peter Helfrich Jr., both of whom served as naval officers, as did her father. Mim is survived by her children, Katherine Alice Helfrich and partner, Emilie Simmons, of Sacramento, Calif., Jennifer Jane Dickinson and husband, Ian R. Dickinson, brigadier general, U.S. Air Force, retired, of Lorton, Va., E. Martha Searchfield and husband, Timothy "Tim" Searchfield, lieutenant, U.S. Coast Guard, retired, of Bar Harbor, Gretchen Elizabeth Helfrich of Chicago, Samuel Paul Helfrich of New York City and Stephanie J. Helfrich White and husband, Carl White, of Mill Valley, Calif. Mim is also survived by her four grandchildren, Nathaniel J. Dickinson, 20, of Hampshire College, Magdelaine E. Dickinson, 18, of Wellesley College, Harris Hale White, 4, and Spencer Jane White, 2.
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5, at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, Ledgelawn Avenue, Bar Harbor, with the Rev. Jack O'Hara, pastor, celebrant. The family has asked that those who wish to remember Mim in a special way may make gifts in her memory to Girl Scouts of Maine at www.girlscoutsofmaine.org
or Bangor Service Center, 359 Perry Road, Suite B, Bangor, ME 04401; or Mount Desert Island YMCA at www.ymcasofmaine.org
or 21 Park St., Bar Harbor, ME 04609. Condolences to the family may be expressed at www.BrookingsSmith.com