The Life and Legacy of Dr. Dennis Helsabeck, Sr.


Dr. Dennis Helsabeck, Sr., with son Denny

Dr. Dennis Helsabeck, Sr., with son Denny

Dr. William Dennis Helsabeck, 100, Johnson City entered into rest, Friday, January 11, 2013, at Appalachian Christian Village, Johnson City, TN.

Dr. Helsabeck was a native of Bowersville, Ohio, a former resident of several states, including, NC, MI, IN, AZ and WI as well as Hokitika, New Zealand. He was a son of the late Robert Alexander and Eliza Anne Vest.

In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death by his first and second wives, Nellie Mae Cox Helsabeck and Eleanor Hughes Hobson Helsabeck; and three sons, Dosier Helsabeck, Earl Hobson and P.G. Hobson

Dr. Helsabeck traveled to 23 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Africa.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree at Johnson Bible College, his Bachelor of Divinity at Butler University School of Religion, his Master of Arts Degree at the University of Michigan and his Doctorate Degree at the University of Wisconsin.

He was a member of Grandview Christian Church, Johnson City, TN.

Dr. Helsabeck was a pastor in the Christian Churches for 27 years, including First Church of Christ, High Point, NC, Arcadia Christian Church, Arcadia, IN, First Christian Church, Madison, WI, Hokitika Church of Christ, New Zealand and Minister of Counseling for First Christian Church, Phoenix, AZ. He served on various committees of the North American Christian Convention and the British American Fellowship.

He spent the remainder of his career as a professor at Milligan College and Emmanuel Christian Seminary in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Dr. Helsabeck leaves one son, William Dennis Helsabeck Jr., Milligan College; seven grandchildren; eleven great grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

The family will greet guests from 6:00 until 8:00 PM Monday, January 14, 2013, at Grandview Christian Church, Johnson City, TN.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 10:30 AM Tuesday, January, 15, 2013, at Grandview Christian Church. Dr. Robert Wetzel, Dr. Robert Hull, Dr. David Eubanks and Dr. Aaron Wymer will officiate.

Inurnment will be held later in Emmanuel Christian Seminary Columbarium.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be made to Emmanuel Christian Seminary, One Walker Drive, Johnson City, TN 37601.

Online condolences may be shared through www.tetrickfuneralhome.com.


2004 George W. Hardin Spirit of Milligan Award

Dennis and Cookie Helsabeck with Milligan’s 14th President Dr. Don Jeanes

Dennis and Cookie Helsabeck with Milligan’s 14th President Dr. Don Jeanes

Dennis and Cookie Helsabeck

Milligan has long been familiar to Dennis Helsabeck and Cookie Hobson Helsabeck. There have been Helsabecks as students at the college on and off since the early 1900’s, and Cookie tells that as a child, she heard about Milligan from her grandmother. Years later, her eldest son, Earl, graduated from Milligan, where he met his wife. Dennis’s son, Dennis, is currently on the faculty of the college, and three of Cookie’s grandsons attended Milligan.

But it is not only the family connections that have made this college dear to Dennis and Cookie . . . Dennis Helsabeck, a widower, joined the faculty of Milligan in the fall of 1963 as a professor of psychology and counseling. At about that same time, Cookie, a widow, arrived on campus to serve as house mother in Pardee Hall, which was at the time a women’s dorm.

As the story goes, the two met in September; went for a drive to see the autumn colors in October; and a few days later, coincidentally met at the post office preparing to mail each other a letter declaring their desire to marry the other. They were wed on December 27, 1963, just two months after their first date, and have now been married for over 40 years.

Dennis and Cookie Helsabeck, or “Ma and Pa” as they came to be known by many, have left a lasting impression on Milligan. The warm embrace of their encouragement and hospitality reached far beyond classroom walls and kitchen tables.

For many alumni, the Helsabecks have continued to be one of the finest memories of their Milligan experience. Homesick students recall being guests of Ma and Pa, finding with them a home away from home and the love and care of a surrogate family. Hungry students remember homemade biscuits, roast beef dinners and “pies that were to die for.” And then there were the hurting students: Ma and Pa gently guided, comforted and uplifted all who sought solace in their company.

As one alum couple put it when asked about Dennis and Cookie, “Their love for God is evident in the whole fabric of their lives together, and their dedication to Milligan and Milligan students and alumni is a significant part of that fabric.”

Dennis and Cookie Helsabeck have embodied all that Milligan has aspired to be. Their servant hearts, their rock-solid faith, and their broad definition of family continue to inspire and challenge us today.


2012 Heritage Award

Dennis Helsebeck, Sr., and the Helsabeck/Hobson children and grandchildren

Dennis Helsebeck, Sr., and the Helsabeck/Hobson children and grandchildren

Helsabeck and Hobson Families

The Helsabeck and Hobson Families have been a part of the Milligan community for more than a century, and their impact as students, as faculty, as staff and as alumni is far-reaching.

Since the early 1900s, Helsabecks have been students at Milligan on and off. In the late 1950s, Hobsons arrived when Earl Hobson matriculated. At about the same time, Mary Alice Randle transferred to the college, and following their graduation in 1962, Earl and Mary Alice married.

Then in the fall of 1963, W.D. Helsabeck, a widower, joined Milligan’s faculty as a professor of psychology and counseling. At about that same time, Cookie Hobson, also a widow and the mother of Earl Hobson, arrived on campus to serve as house mother in Pardee Hall (which was at the time a women’s dorm). Dennis and Cookie met in September and had their first date in October. Two months later, in December of 1963—Dennis and Cookie were married, and they enjoyed 40-plus years of wedded bliss.

But there is more. Dr. Helsabeck had two sons, and one of them—Denny—came to Milligan to teach humanities and church history in 1981. Denny retired in 2007 and is now associate professor emeritus of history, but he continues to teach a reformation class at Milligan.

And lest you think we’ve forgotten about Earl and Mary Alice, we haven’t. The Hobsons had three sons—Scott, Seth and Eric—and all three attended Milligan. Scott is married to Elaine Stoker, a Milligan alumna, and they have five children—three of whom are in high school. It appears the likelihood of continuing the Helsabeck/Hobson line at Milligan is high.

Please join in honoring the memory of Cookie Helsabeck and Earl Hobson and in recognizing Dennis, Denny, Mary Alice, Eric, Seth, and Scott and Elaine and their five children: Will, Sally, Marley, Eva and Ellie.


MILLIGAN COLLEGE is a Christian liberal arts college in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The college offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan College, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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