Two of our classmates have died in February 2017: Jeff Helquist on February 7, and Christina Ortega O’Neill on February 15.

Jeff Helquist, 1968

Jeff Helquist, 1968

Jeff Helquist (1949-2017) passed away of a heart attack. The following picture was posted on Facebook by Sharon Anderson McEntire with the following caption: “Just got very sad news, our long time best friend Jeff Helquist passed away last Monday of a heart attack.. This picture was taken March of 1973 in front of my house on Birmingham in Burbank.. Jeff is the very last one, with the long hair and beard. Jeff graduated BHS class of ’68.. He will be missed!!

“From left, Vern and Joyce McEntire, Bill Whitaker with John McEntire behind him, Thom and Sharon McEntire, Duke Gardemann, Bill Verdun, Joe Moss and Jeff Helquist.”

If anyone can share memories of Jeff, or information about his career, hobbies or family, please send them to Kathy Au Crosier.

Chris Ortega O'Neill

Chris Ortega O’Neill

Chris Ortega, 1968

Chris Ortega, 1968

Here is what the Burbank Leader published about Chris:

Christina “Christy” O’Neill left this world and began her journey to Heaven on February 15, 2017. She passed away at the age of 67 in her home after a long battle with cancer. Christy loved spending time with her family and friends. She cherished the time that she spent with her four grandchildren. As she would always say, she loved them “to the moon and back.” She and her husband, Kevin, enjoyed many camping adventures in their motorhome. Her favorite camping spot was Carpinteria where she visited often with Kevin and her extended family and friends. Chris will be remembered for her devotion to her family, her generous smile, warm heart, and kind disposition. She will be missed by all of those whose lives she has touched. Chris grew up in Burbank, California and graduated from Burbank High School. She was a longtime employee with the Burbank Unified School District at Washington Elementary School. She is survived by her loving husband of 46 years, Kevin; daughter Colleen Simon-O’Neill (Jenny) and son Patrick O’Neill (Alison); grandchildren Quinn, Theodore, Peyton, and Andrew; siblings Emilio Ortega, Ana Neria, Fred Ortega, and Tony Ortega. Services will be held at St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church, Burbank on Saturday, March 4, 2017, Rosary at 11:30 am, Funeral Mass at 12:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to City of Hope in memory of Christina O’Neill.

Annette Dinolfo Bennett wrote that Chris fought cancer for a longtime—14 years. “She was my close friend and will miss her so much.”

We send our deepest condolences to Jeff and Chris’ families and friends. Please post your comments in the box below.

UPDATE 3/2/17. Just a few years ago, Jeff Helquist was listed as one of our Class of 1968 “missing classmates,” yet his address was in Burbank. Thomas McEntire, shown in the photo above, wrote that Jeff got a job right out of high school at Lions, an export and packing firm, and he built crates and boxes for Lockheed. He married Donna McClatchy and had two children, Andy and Linda, but later divorced. Jeff just started driving for the RTD bus systems and got prostate cancer five years ago. After an operation, he was declared free of cancer, but it came back two years ago. Jeff’s brother, Dave Helquist, married one of our BHS’68 classmates, Janis Shovald, making her Jeff’s sister-in-law. Janis died on March 29, 2007 after her year and half battle with cancer.

About Katherine Crosier

I am an organist in Honolulu—a rare breed of folks who play the King of Instruments! Through stories, photos, and videos, this blog is a diary of my musical journey ... and my family just groans!

3 responses »

  1. Chris Sengers says:

    Sorry when any friend passes away.
    I haven’t talked to Jeff since high school, but I always seemed to raise his awareness when I called him HELMQUIST instead of Helquist.
    Hmmm could be why I haven’t talked to him in 50 years………..?
    He was a pretty good guy back then.

  2. Cynthia Cavanaugh says:

    This is very sad news. I think Jeff might have gone to Jefferson, but he’s one of those “kids” who I never shared a class with. I didn’t know Chris, but I knew who she was and always thought she was really pretty, as she still was in the later picture. She also seemed really nice. Another sad loss for ’68.

    • Roger Guggenheimer says:

      Hi Cindy (from above) I knew Jeff very well, as he and I were friends for many years, but lost track after high school. He was a quiet, but super nice guy. I shared classes and adventures with Jeff, and his brother Dave as well. During those days, they lived right down the street from me on Stanford road in Burbank, a 5 minute walk from Jefferson elementary school.

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