June 3, 1933 - Nov. 19, 2019
R. Donald Helenbrook's pleasant, soothing bass voice served him well as a local radio announcer.
In the late 1970s, he hosted a Sunday evening call-in show that played soft jazz on local radio station WADV. Many restaurants played his show.
"He had a wonderful voice – he was like a natural," recalled his wife, Nancy. "We had a ton of old records, and that's what he would play."
Among his favorite musicians were Count Basie, Anne Murray, Linda Ronstadt and Frank Sinatra.
Mr. Helenbrook died Nov. 19. He was 86.
He and his wife volunteered for many years with International Students Inc., teaching conversational English in their home to visiting scholars and postdoctoral students at the University at Buffalo, many of them from China.
A gentle man, Mr. Helenbrook's character was evident in the concern he showed for the mallards he sometimes saw in his backyard that had injured one of their legs. He learned how to catch an injured duck, then hold it in one arm while he taped the injured leg with his other hand, his wife said.
"The duck would be so calm and peaceful in his arms," she said.
After a couple of weeks, he would take the tape off, and the duck would again be able to walk.
Mr. Helenbrook served with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in the 1950s at Fort Bragg. After leaving the service, he earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the University at Buffalo in 1962, and then a master's in education the following year. He worked for a civil engineering group from the early 1970s until he retired in 2017 at the age of 83.
He had also worked as an art teacher in the Buffalo schools and as coordinator of continuing education seminars in UB's School of Nursing.
Bicycling was a passion of his well into his late 70s. He and his wife liked to ride on the bike path through Ellicott Creek Park and along the Niagara River in the City of Tonawanda. He participated in the Ride for Roswell for a decade.
Mr. Helenbrook was an active member of Watermark Wesleyan Church, where he was known for his upbeat attitude, gentle smile and engaging sense of humor. He also traveled to Mexico three times on mission trips through Urban Christian Ministries.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 7 at the Watermark Wesleyan Church, 4999 McKinley Parkway, Hamburg.