John (Jack) Harold Helle passed away on July 23, 2018 in Eagle, Idaho with his family by his side. Jack was a treasured and deeply loved husband, father, grandfather, father-in-law, brother, uncle, and friend to countless people. Everyone who met Jack was instantly drawn to his warm, friendly, generous, humorous, gentle spirit; his endless optimism, his love of life, and his infectious smile and laugh. Jack was adored, admired, and was a source of great inspiration and joy to not only his family and immediate friends, but to numerous people around the world whom he met during his extensive travels made over the course of his highly successful career as a Fisheries Research Biologist, at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Auke Bay Laboratories, in Juneau, Alaska. He received countless awards, the highest of honors, and was the center of numerous recognition ceremonies honoring his outstanding achievement, years of research, and countless scientific publications he authored, and scientific contributions to his field of study. His passion for his career was so evident, his love for his work unbounded, he would often say, “I would do this, even if I wasn’t getting paid for it”. His research often led him to very close encounters with grizzly and black bears as he sampled salmon in the rivers of Alaska. His stories of so many of his encounters with bears were the source of many hours of fascinated listening and enjoyment to all who were lucky enough to hear them.
Jack’s remarkable life story began with his birth in Williston, North Dakota on April 26, 1935. He had an idyllic childhood starting in Williston, and continuing in Fargo, North Dakota with his loving parents Harold and Alice, and brother Joe. Jack developed a love of photography during those years, which continued throughout his life. He could often times be seen with a camera around his neck, never wanting to miss a photo opportunity. His family and friends are eternally grateful for the photographs gracing their walls, the photo albums, and the precious memories that have been chronicled by his pictures.
Jack’s smokejumping adventures began in McCall, Idaho in 1954, and continued for the following six summers. He made so many extraordinary and lifelong friendships during those years, which were a great source of happiness and comfort for him throughout his lifetime. They enjoyed talking about their heroic efforts fighting fires, and so many of the fun times they shared, which created lifetime bonds.
Jack received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Idaho, where he met his beloved bride of 59 years, Marilyn. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award of Distinguished Alumni from the University of Idaho, as well as an award from Oregon State University, where he earned his PhD, and is on their Registry of Distinguished Graduates.
Jack and Marilyn moved to Juneau, Alaska in September of 1960, driving the Alcan Highway from Idaho in a 2-door ’55 Ford while 8 months pregnant, and made Juneau their home for 57 years. It was there that they raised two daughters, Jean and Joanna. Jack was an amazing father, exemplary example, and loving man. All of his daughter’s friends were jealous and often stated they wished he could have been their father. His daughters were the lucky ones to have him as their Dad, and they are forever grateful.
Jack’s accomplishments during his career are too numerous to list, a few highlights were that he was a leading innovator of fisheries research in the North Pacific, his career long observations, and numerous published scientific works led to discoveries and collaborations with American, Canadian, Japanese, Korean, and Russian scientists. In 2001, Jack led the Bering Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS) which developed into a collection of data that is widely hailed by scientists worldwide. Results of the BASIS program still lend to scientific research of one of the largest and most logistically difficult to monitor ecosystems in the world. Jack also received a lifetime achievement award from the Federal Government upon his retirement after 49 years of an unparalleled career.
In addition to his passion for his family, his profession, and photography, Jack loved a good martini, football (especially the Minnesota Vikings), Norwegian specialties lefse and lutefisk, good red wine, traveling, laughing, “snowbirding” to Arizona for the winters, sharing time with his lifelong friends, swimming, hiking, and reading - just to name a few.
He is survived by his loving wife Marilyn of Eagle, Idaho; his daughter Jean Davis and son-in-law Blair of Eagle Idaho; his daughter Joanna Konechne and grandchildren Danielle and Jocelyn Konechne of Rapid City, South Dakota, brother Joe and his wife Aggie Helle of Dillon, Montana; sister-in-laws and brother in-laws, nieces, nephews, cousins and many wonderful friends. His legacy spreads far and wide, his life was lived to the fullest, and his family members will always cherish their lives with him. He is our hero, our “Superman”, as his wife and daughters called him, and he will never be forgotten.
At his request, no services will be held. In honor and memory of Jack, and in lieu of flowers, the family suggests gifts to the Dr. John “Jack” Helle Memorial Fishery Resources Fund at the University of Idaho. Gifts can be sent to Dr. John “Jack” Helle Memorial Fishery Resources Fund, c/o University of Idaho Foundation, 875 Perimeter Drive MS 3143, Moscow, ID 83844-3143.
Family can be contacted at 3375 W. Chartwell St., Eagle, ID 83616.