Graham, who first met Andy the Sunday after the tornadoes, told a story that demonstrated Andy’s love for his community. Clear lines of communication and leadership weren’t always available toward the beginning of the relief efforts. Graham said it wasn’t unusual for different aid organizations to vie for people they hoped to help. Andy witnessed this happening once and decided to set things straight.
“In the first few days after the tornado, there were a lot of groups out there and nobody really knew who was in charge. A lot of different groups tried to take charge,” Graham said. “And I’ll never forget one of the comments that Andy made that wasn’t directed at anybody or anything. These are his very words, ‘This ain’t no holy war. We’re here to take care of everybody.’ I think he described it just as well as anybody in just saying that.”
Oregon Township Trustee William Bussey had known Andy since his childhood, as his kids and Andy attended New Washington High School together. Bussey remembered him as being a man of his word, someone that was highly resourceful, and wondered if Andy’s four years of military service might have helped with his success. Regardless, Andy was in it for the long haul and was well aware of the amount of time and energy the recovery efforts would take.
“He said, I know for a few people this is going to pass over in a few weeks or a few months, and it’s going to take longer than that. It’s an ongoing thing. I’m sure if he was still here, he’d still be trying to do things for the community,” Bussey said.
PUTTING IN THE WORK
Throughout his life, Andy was never afraid of hard work. He and his father Jim Helton worked as pipefitters together, a job Andy enjoyed and at which he excelled. Years ago while at a worksite, Andy fell 40 feet and landed on his back. He struggled with the pain, and eventually had a hard time continuing in the pipefitting business due to the injury. Despite the discomfort from his physical ailments, his assisting the town in recovery efforts gave him a renewed sense of purpose.