Sunday, November 17, 2019
2:00 PM to 4:00 PM EST
St. Luke's Episcopal Church
247 West Lovell Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Time of Sharing will begin at 3:30 PM
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Dr. Arthur W. Helweg would agree that he was kind, generous, and dedicated. Art was a humble man whose greatest joy was found in the relationships he shared with his family and friends. As a professor of 30 + years he helped influence the lives of many, leaving a legacy that will never be forgotten.
In 1940, Otto and Laura (Jennings) Helweg announced the birth of baby boy, Arthur Wesley, on June 1, 1940 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was raised in Watervliet, Michigan. Art’s father was a Commander in the Navy and later a teacher. At a time when women usually didn’t work, his mother was an accomplished teacher and his aunt, Thyra Jennings, also a teacher, was one of the first women of her time to attend college. Art was an Eagle Scout and developed a love for outdoor activities including camping, hiking, and canoeing as a young boy.
After graduating from Watervliet High School, Art served as an officer in the Navy and was discharged with full honors. He completed two tours of duty in the Vietnam War where he was the engineering officer on a destroyer in the Pacific. Art was in the ROTC program at Miami University in Ohio where he obtained his B.A. in Education. He received an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Michigan State University. Art was a professor of Anthropology at Western Michigan University between 1970 and 2002, and had been Professor Emeritus since 2005. He loved his career as a professor, teacher, and researcher. On the first day of class, he was known to tell his students, “If I had my life to live all over again, I would do what I am doing now.”
Professor Helweg was an internationally recognized expert in immigration, economic development, community building, and ethnic and racial relations in the United States, United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Australia, Romania, and Canada. He authored over one hundred publications and seven books. He was a Fulbright Scholar and received multiple grants to conduct research abroad, and in 2003 received the prestigious Outstanding Scholar Award from the Western Michigan College of Arts and Sciences. Upon retirement in 2005, Art also received the State of Michigan Special Tribute Recognition, signed by Governor Granholm and local state legislators, for a highly productive career at WMU fostering the education climate.
Art found a remarkable way to incorporate his work and his family life. He met and married Usha Mehta while an undergraduate. They courted through letters and phone calls while he was stationed in North Carolina. They married in 1964 at the Chapel of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, NY. Usha was an Indian immigrant and Art chose to focus his graduate work on India. As a young couple, Art and Usha moved to Lansing, MI and started a family, Priya and Rajesh, while Art completed his Ph.D. In 1971, the couple packed up their 4 year old and almost 1 year old and spent a year traveling between Gravesend, England and a rural village in Punjab, India. They worked as a team on his research, Usha translating and editing, Art researching, writing, and interviewing. For most of his career, Art focused on Indians emigrating from India to England, Canada, US, and Australia. The family lived abroad for several years at a time.
Art made many friends and contacts throughout his travels. He was well respected as a scholar and his gentle, kind demeanor allowed strangers to easily welcome him into their homes and lives. The family ended up living with some of those strangers for months at a time, forming lasting bods that were revisited in the years to come. His first book, Sikhs in England, featured those individuals who moved from research subjects to fast friends.
As a fair person, Art was adamant that his second book acknowledged the true collaboration with his wife Usha. They shared joint authorship of An Immigrant’s Success Story. Art believed in giving credit where credit was due. He adored Usha’s family and incorporated them into his career, giving his wife and children a chance to develop a closeness with relatives living half a world away. He was generous and willing to sponsor anyone who wanted to immigrate to the US. The Helweg home in Kalamazoo, MI was open and welcoming. In 1998 Usha lost her battle with cancer.
Art maintained an active outdoor lifestyle. He took his family skiing, canoeing, camping, and backcountry hiking. He walked often and rode his bike to work. He taught his children to ski downhill and cross country. Many a moonlit night the family would cross country ski out their back door. Art was a fun and adventurous Dad. He loved his children dearly. As they grew, he remained a strong supporter and willing advocate for their interests.
In 1985, Art joined St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and was a longtime contributor to the church Long Range Planning Group. His strong background in decoding culture was indispensable, and he was able to identify three foundational pillars of trust, spirituality and community as the values on which to focus and build.
With an insatiable thirst for knowledge coupled with a sense of adventure, Art traveled as a Fulbright Scholar to Romania in 1991 and 1992, with a follow-up visit in 1993. He investigated the Romanian transition from communist to capitalist economy and discovered that many of the U.N. economic development efforts in the Romanian rural economy were not working. The result was a timely and insightful book, Struggling with the Communist Legacy: Studies of Yugoslavia, Romania, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Of great significance on this trip was Art’s introduction to Monica Gavrila who became his guide and translator throughout Transylvania and Moldova. When she later came to the United States, she and Art renewed their friendship. They fell in love and were married in 1999. Her daughter, Andreea, joined them in Kalamazoo in 2002.
Monica and Art enjoyed myriad activities and attended many cultural events. One of their favorite activities was attending concerts and plays at Miller auditorium on the WMU campus. They traveled extensively, visiting locales around the world; New York City was a favorite. They shared a passion for literature and enjoyed deep discussions of the literary classics. Music was another touchstone for Monica and Art, and their home was frequently full of the sounds of opera, classical, and selections from the Vienna Boys’ Choir. With Andreea in the Helweg home, discussions turned towards her future, where she would attend college, and how to best position herself for a successful career. During a memorable trip to Ann Arbor and a visit to the University of Michigan Hospital, Art impressed upon Andreea the nobility of the medical profession. His confidence in her, coupled with her trust in him, no doubt led her down the path to becoming a physician. Throughout their time together, and in keeping with their open and welcoming nature, Art and Monica often hosted friends and family to feast on delicious food, drink and fellowship. In later years, with his health declining, Monica became a dedicated and tireless caregiver who helped nurture and sustain Art during his long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Her vow to care for Art and look out for his best interest, no matter how difficult, was a promise she would keep until his final days.
With a love for his community, Art selflessly gave to others in so many ways. Among his biggest contributions were community building, including ethnic and racial relations and economic development. He developed and served as editor-in-chief of the highly successful book series, Discovering the People of Michigan, and co-authored Ethnic Groups in Michigan with Jack Glazier. Later, he worked with the Grand Rapids Public Museum and K-12 teachers on a permanent museum exhibit and a three-year school curriculum. Art facilitated mutual respect and cooperation between the Dutch and Hispanic groups in Holland, Michigan. He strengthened ethnic relations with his insight into successful social work policies gained by studying East Indian immigrants in NYC under a WMU grant. He further studied ways to improve economic development programs under an American Institution of Indian Studies and researched the social and economic network behaviors of professional Indian immigrants in England. Art received grants from Fulbright/Hays Office of Education (2), Fulbright-Hays Institute of International Education, American Institute of Indian Studies (University of Chicago), Smithsonian Institute, W.C. Kellogg Foundation and Western Michigan University (7).
Art brought to the world a broad sweep of curiosity, scholarship, extensive theory and field experience, and exceptionally hard work. He was a world-class professor of Anthropology whose rich background of feet-on-the-ground operational experience, teaching and in-depth research brought a profound understanding of the world around us. Art had a passion for research, writing, teaching, mentoring students, and international travel. He had an authenticity grounded in his respect for others, straight-forwardness and integrity. His warmth and compassion changed the lives of those around him – both friends and students. He had a capacity for listening deeply to understand the issue and the person. His home was always open to his students who frequently came for home cooking, company and scholarship.
With a zest for life that was contagious to all who were near, Dr. Arthur W. Helweg was an extraordinary man to know and love. He lived a life of purpose and made it his mission to make the world around him a better place. Life will never be the same without Art here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
Dr. Arthur W. Helweg died peacefully Tuesday, November 12, 2019, at Veterans Affairs Hospital in Battle Creek, MI. Surviving are his wife of 20 years, Monica Helweg; 2 children: Priya (Ron) Diver with their twins, Finn and Frances and Rajesh (Gretel) Helweg; and Monica’s daughter, Andreea (Blaine) Moore and their 2 children: Cora and Victor. Art was preceded in death by his brother, Otto Helweg, Jr. and by his first wife, Usha Helweg. Visit with family and friends on Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (247 W. Lovell) where services will be held Monday 11 a.m. Burial with military honors will take place at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Please visit Art’s personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.