Glenn Edward Helm passed away on November 30 at Howard University Hospital, in Washington, DC, where he had been hospitalized since November 11 battling COVID-19. Glenn was born on February 21, 1953 to Edward Martin Helm and Mary Rose Helm in Amherst, NY. He was 67.
A 1971 graduate of Red Land High school in Lewisberry, PA, Glenn moved with his family to Arizona where he earned a BA and MA from Arizona State University, and an MLS from the University of Arizona. Glenn’s graduate school thesis entitled, “The Tet 1968 Offensive: A Failure of Allied Intelligence,” so impressed the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C. (now the Naval History and Heritage Command), that they recruited him in 1990, and he began his career there in January of 1991. Always proud to serve the public by providing information and promoting naval history, Glenn was one of the first staff there to develop the NHHC’s nascent website in 1995 with a simple frequently asked questions page.
In 2007, Glenn became Director of the Navy Department Library. He took great pride in the Library’s long history, which traces its roots to a letter dated March 31, 1800 from President John Adams to Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert, directing him to establish a naval library. He loved the Library’s history and especially loved telling the story of how its collection was evacuated when the British began burning down many of Washington’s federal buildings during the War of 1812. He loved to provide tours of the Library and its rare book collection and show off some of its treasures, such as the calling cards of John Paul Jones when he was in the Russian Navy, signal books with lead covers that would sink to the bottom of the ocean when thrown overboard to prevent capture, documents captured during World War II on the U-505, a log book from a Royal Navy warship captured in the American Revolution, among many others.
He was very proud to be the Library’s caretaker and always said that he wanted to leave it in a better condition than when he took over as its director.
In his spare time, Glenn enjoyed researching and writing articles for publications, such as, “The Encyclopedia of the American Mexican War”, “Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War,” “Encyclopedia of World War I”, Encyclopedia of Word War II, among others.
Glenn was a creative and compelling storyteller, a life-long student of history, an intrepid traveler, and above all, a generous and kind soul. He was a voracious reader and book collector. While his interests were wide and morphed over time, his real love was pre-Columbian archeology and history. And he came to this passion honestly. As a young boy in the late 1950s, Glenn and his parents lived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where his father, a major in the U.S. Air Force, trained Honduran pilots. His parents often took him to archaeological sites there, in Guatemala, and in Mexico, where he developed his life-long passion for archeology and Maya history.
He was also a talented and creative artist. He studied art in college and often joked that he had so many art credits that he just should have finished another class or two and he would have earned an art degree. He was interested in painting, printmaking, and collages. He once described his art as, “reflecting experiences, concerns, and obsessions. The term “surrealist” is appropriate: my art is the landscape of my dreams.” Some of his work was exhibited in shows in Europe and Japan and he maintained relationships with other international artists.
Growing up in a military family contributed to his life-long passion for travel. He spent part of his childhood in Germany, where his father was stationed, and his parents often “packed up” both Glenn and his younger brother Brian, and traveled throughout Europe. Later when the family returned to the U.S., they visited many archaeological sites and National Parks in the American Southwest.
As a young adult, he made numerous trips to Mexico and Central America. More recently, Glenn and his travel companion and dear friend Barbara Voulgaris, began exploring South America, visiting archaeological sites and museums in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia. He sometimes traveled alone and would not hesitate to rent a car and drive for hours far into the Mexican jungle to visit Maya sites, or to archaeological sites in El Salvador.
His surviving family members include his brother Brian George Helm of Winchester, Virginia, sister-in-law Cindy Helm, niece Carissa, and nephew Jordan. He also leaves behind his cherished friends of many years, Jeff Daugherty and his wife Heather of Phoenix, Arizona, Joseph and Janice Day of Second Mesa, Arizona, Bill Taylor of Phoenix, Arizona, and numerous friends and colleagues at the NHHC.
A memorial service is planned at the family’s convenience. Details will be provided at a later date. To honor Glenn’s love of the Hopi people and archaeology, in lieu of flowers or memorial gifts, those who wish may contribute to the Hopi Foundation, 110 Main St/PO Box 301, Kykotsmovi Village, AZ 86039, or, Archaeology Southwest, 300 North Ash Alley, Tucson, AZ, or a charity of their choice in his memory.