• Beltsville News

A Short Research Story By Patty Lesondak


The photo presented to Mildred E Helton in 2004 with the photographer’s signature on the back.

I was visiting a local thrift store and came upon a beautiful scenic framed photo. It just spoke to me. I bought it for $1.00 and took it home. When I took the picture out to clean the frame is when the mystery began. The picture was an original photo, but I could not read the signature it was presented to a Mildred E Helton in 2004 for 45 years of volunteer service for the Beltsville News. The questions and search began. Who was Mildred Helton, who was the photographer and where was the Beltsville News and how did it end up in a thrift store? I did my research and found it very interesting with a little strange twist.

Mildred Elsie Wilson Helton was born in Barbour County in 1916 and lived to be 101 years old. She passed away in a personal care home in Jane Lew, WV. She was the daughter of the late Hurshel and Maude Belle Zirkle Wilson. She married Russell Wade Helton in 1939 and had a son and a daughter. She was the owner of Helton Reality. She had volunteered for the Beltsville News located in Beltsville, MD. She served as classified news editor and contributed her time to the paper and community. Interesting that this newspaper is an all-volunteer newspaper https://www.beltsvillenewstoday.com Check it out, a nice newspaper.

Her son was Russell Wilson Helton a Vietnam War veteran. He relocated to Upshur County in the late 70’s and enjoyed fishing, hunting and gardening. Russell passed away in July 2022. It appears he had no immediate family, and he left his estate to the Shrine’s Hospitals for Children and St. Jude Children’s research Hospital.

Most likely the photo was in his processions until he passed and then odds and ends of his personal items were donated. I love the photo and will cherish it. The photographer was Phil Whitman. Mr. Whitman also volunteered for the paper. As far as genealogy goes, I don’t see a connection, but the little strange twist is Mildred’s birthday was December 18 and my birthday is December 18th.

Patty Lesondak is the Executive Director of HCPD, Hackers Creek Pioneer Descendants, Inc. (Central WV history & genealogy library) www.hackerscreek.org

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