Irwin man boosted Blind Association using sales skills
Lawrence J. Helkowksi won salesman of the year honors three years in a row while working for Peoples Gas.
After he retired from a 33-year career with the utility, he put his persuasive skills to work for the Westmoreland County Blind Association, serving as its president and CEO.
As a source of additional income for the organization and employment for its sight-impaired workers, Mr. Helkowski established a service that shreds sensitive documents for local businesses.
“He took a great deal of satisfaction from working with the people there, getting to know them and trying to give them meaningful employment,” said his son, Lawrence Scott Helkowski. “He got a grant from a foundation to buy the (shredding) machines. He did a lot of work to get local businesses to use them and to get their name out there.
“There are places in Greensburg that use that service still.”
During his 13 years heading the Blind Association, “he tried to make it a fun atmosphere,” with picnics and Super Bowl parties, his son added.
Lawrence J. Helkowski of Irwin died Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. He was 73. Born May 22, 1945, in Scottdale, he was a son of the late Daniel S. Helkwoski Sr. and Sara Livingston Helkowski.
A graduate of Scottdale High School, Mr. Helkowski served in the Army from 1966 to 1968, stationed at Fort Gordon in Georgia.
After joining Peoples Gas, initially in credit collections, he earned a business administration degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1974. He attended night classes for three years at the Greensburg campus before finishing coursework at the Oakland campus.
“He went to night school on the G.I. Bill and went a long time to get his degree,” said his brother, Daniel, of Baden. “He stuck to it. He was determined to get his degree.”
After Mr. Helkowski moved into sales and marketing at Peoples, one of his major projects was expanding service at Seven Springs.
“I remember him working for years on that, for the condos they were building,” his son said. “He loved to meet people and talk with them. He really enjoyed that aspect of his work.”
Mr. Helkowski volunteered with the local United Way, serving on the allocations committee and making presentations to encourage donations. He also helped organize banquets for the local chamber of commerce.
A member of Immaculate Conception Church in Irwin, he served on the board of Westmoreland County Community College.
He received the Pitt-Greensburg Alumnus of Distinction Award in 2017.
“He really wanted to help people get an education and see them succeed,” his son said. “He believed in trying to help others, and he enjoyed getting to know a lot of really good people along the way.”
An avid golfer, Mr. Helkowski played in leagues at Greensburg’s Mt. Odin Golf Park. He was a loyal fan of Pitt sports, especially the football and basketball teams.
“He had season tickets for Pitt football for over 35 years,” his son said.
Mr. Helkowski was preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Jaqualine. Survivors include his son Lawrence and wife, Julie, of Powell, Ohio; two grandchildren and three brothers.
Parting prayers will be held at 9 a.m. Friday in William Snyder Funeral Home, 521 Main St., Irwin, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 9:30 a.m. in Immaculate Conception Church.
Interment will follow in St. Josef’s Cemetery, Everson.
Memorial donations may be made to Pitt-Greensburg or the Westmoreland County Blind Association.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter @jhimler_news.