Recently, Whitey Helget was recognized as KNUJ’s Hometown Hero for the month of September. He was nominated by Sister Joanne, the Church of the Japanese Martyrs parish administrator.
Whitey has spent many years with the Leavenworth softball team and concession stand and is frequently requested as the bus driver to drive students to various sporting events.
Whitey grew up in Leavenworth as the fourth oldest of 15 siblings, many who still live and work in the area.
Recently he told a group of tennis players he had driven to a match that his real name wasn’t Whitey. The students who had grown up knowing Whitey were astonished to know that his birth name is actually Myron.
Whitey explained that he was born with a head of white hair. His grandfather, when visiting the infant for the first time, exclaimed, “Well that one is going to be a “whitey.” The nickname stuck.
“Over 95 percent of Brown County doesn’t know me by my first name,” Whitey said, adding that he even receives mail under the name of Whitey.
Throughout the years, Whitey has been an integral part of the tapestry in Leavenworth, living on a family farm south of Leavenworth for his adult life.
For the most part, Whitey volunteers his time between softball and church.He has many fond memories of the almost three decades he spent as either a coach, organizer or concession stand worker for the Leavenworth Softball team. While he is quick to add that he doesn’t deserve all the credit, he did say he has a room full of over 60 trophies to show from his work.
In addition to the time he spent with the softball team, Whitey has also organized softball teams and readied the field for the annual summer festival and church dinner in Leavenworth for the past 41 years.
His love of ball games, Whitey said, came from years of playing baseball with the Heiderscheidt and Mickelson kids in the neighborhood.
“We went yard-to-yard (playing ball) every day,” Whitey recalled.
After retiring from River Region Cooperative Elevator in Cobden where he spent 41 years, Whitey began driving bus for the Sleepy Eye Bus Company about three years ago.
“I have a lot of fun with the kids,” Whitey said with a grin.
The rapport that Whitey has built with the students comes from the many years he spent as a summer coach for area softball.
“I’ve known some of these kids since they were in second and third grade,” he added.
Page 2 of 2 - When asked if he has any notion of slowing down, Whitey answered, “I’ll stay with it until I feel like quitting.”
All Hometown Heros will be honored at a banquet in October.
Whitey said he is especially appreciative for all the support he has received throughout his life from the communities of Leavenworth and Sleepy Eye.