If you visited the Anderson Barn Museum this year or read any of the previous blog posts, you probably know about some of Ephraim’s Civil War veterans. Today, in honor of Veterans Day, I’ll be writing about a Vietnam veteran with Ephraim connections.
It’s hard to miss the tall white pole at Ephraim’s Anderson Dock. This memorial commemorates E. Eugene Helgeson, Jr., who served in the United States Air Force and was killed in action on March 6, 1968, during the Battle of Khe Sanh. The pole was erected later that year by Amos M. Rasmussen.
Eugene was born May 14, 1942, and served with the 311th Air Commando Squadron, 315th Air Commando Wing, 7th Air Force. He was awarded a number of medals for his service, including the Silver Star Medal for Bravery, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Purple Heart. Eugene was killed in a plane crash at the age of 25 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His name appears on panel 43E, line 020 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.
We’ve had questions from curious visitors about why Ephraim has a memorial to First Lieutenant Helgeson, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. The answer to that question comes from the name Helgeson, which has a long history in Ephraim through Matilda (Tilla) and Elias Helgeson, Eugene’s paternal grandparents and proprietors of the Edgewater Lodge. While Tilla and Elias weren’t the first owners of the Edgewater, the Helgeson family operated the hotel from 1906 to 1961.
Though Eugene didn’t grow up in Ephraim, he had strong family ties to the community. Five of his aunts and uncles, Lillian, Grace, Pearl, Elsie, and Guy, helped their parents run the Edgewater and continued its operation after the deaths of Elias in 1923 and Tilla in 1954. While Eugene’s father, Ellis, moved away from Ephraim, he maintained connections to Ephraim throughout his life and is buried alongside his wife Ruth, his parents, and most of his siblings at the Ephraim Moravian Cemetery.
The next time you visit Anderson Dock, be sure to stop and see the plaque for First Lieutenant E. Eugene Helgeson on the memorial pole.
-Guest Blogger Emily Irwin