Helga Camille, 92, of Asheville died of natural causes at her home on September 13. She is survived by her husband, Robert Sr.; her brother and sister-in-law, Dr. Rudolf Fuhrmann and Anne Fuhrmann of Austria; her children and their spouses: Bernadette Camille and John Sarisky of Hendersonville, Robert Jr. and Cindy Camille of Asheville, Christina Long of Laurel Park, and Thomas and Tanya Camille of Woodfin; and four grandchildren: Gus Camille, Jack Camille, Camille Long, and Lana Camille.
Helga traveled far during her life’s journey, and loved—and was loved—by many. She was born in Austria on April 1, 1928, the second of three children. After World War II she worked in England before traveling to Germany, where she met her husband-to-be while he was serving in the US Army. They moved to the US and lived in Illinois, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Puerto Rico before settling in western North Carolina over 40 years ago.
Helga’s family often said that she never met a stranger. Her outgoing personality and friendly nature meant that she made fast friends with almost everyone she encountered. She excelled at keeping family members awake on long drives and holds the family record for nonstop talking at 16 hours.
Helga had an entrepreneurial spirit. She founded and ran two childcare centers and obtained a realtor’s license. She participated in the construction of numerous homes her family built in the Asheville-Hendersonville area and took an active role in the decision-making. Helga proved herself a wily negotiator and occasionally could even be found nailing shingles on the roof.
Helga never forgot her Austrian roots. She delighted her family by cooking Wiener schnitzel, potato salad, Christmas cookies, and other Austrian delicacies. She frequently used Austrian slang words to let her family know whether they were being good or bad. And, especially in later years, she loved to “zigeuner” around town with her husband and children.
Helga was gifted with a beautiful voice and dreamed as a child of becoming a professional singer. She later ensured that each of her children had the opportunity to learn musical instruments and instilled in them her own love of music. Even two weeks before her death, she was still singing to fellow patients in the hospital waiting room.
Most of all she loved her family. She went on many vacations with them, surprising them with her adventurous spirit, whether it was leading a conga line in the Caribbean or riding ski lifts in Breckenridge. In later years, she loved driving along the rivers and lakes and stopping for lunch or to sightsee. Even as her memory was failing her, she always had her beautiful smile and sparkly blue eyes. In those later years, she said “I love you” more than when her family was younger, probably because she knew her time was short. Her children can still see her in their father’s truck, blowing kisses and waving as they drove off.
Those whose lives Helga touched will miss her but never forget her. Perhaps the greatest testament to her life is not even how much she did but how much she was loved. We conclude this tribute by showing her enduring legacy through the memories shared by her grandchildren.
From granddaughter Gus:
Searching for a favorite moment or memory of Grandma feels a little like forgetting to see the forest for the trees, and I realize in looking back that my favorite memories aren’t large moments or events, but simply the everyday things that made up a life filled with love and laughter. Her favorite place to be was anywhere her family was, and the words spoken before the snap of every photo were “Grandma! Look!” because she was forever looking around at everyone else to make sure her family was happy and smiling. I have early fond memories of spending afternoons at her house “cooking” disgusting concoctions that included every spice in her spice cabinet and usually some juice or old coffee for good measure. Most often we would decide not to drink the sludge after all (shocker) and drink hot chocolate while sitting on the front porch watching the cars go by instead. She was an unrelenting and vicious Uno opponent, and was always up for adventure. There is photographic evidence of her riding Space Mountain at Disney World at around age 90. Her sweet tooth was passed down through the generations of her family. She never discouraged dessert, or seconds on dessert, usually starting with it herself. There will be many “prosts” and slices of key lime pie to come in her honor.
From grandson Jack:
Some of my favorite memories of Grandma are small moments I don’t think it would be possible to forget. Some are shared passions, and some are simply things we would shake our heads at and smile, because Grandma was a unique and truly amazing person. As a child, one of our favorite games at her house was “red car, blue car.” Each of us would choose a color of cars and we’d sit on the back porch at her house and watch the cars go by. Whoever counted more of their color cars go by was the winner. When I was 15 and got my learner’s permit, Grandma and I would get in the car and just drive with no destination or agenda for hours. Any time there was something one of us wanted to know about, she knew there was SOME search engine on the computer that could be used, but could never remember the exact word “google.” “Goobie it” has since become an often-repeated phrase in our house. As the family trouble maker, any time she was breaking a rule and knew it and someone came to ask her to stop, she would quickly switch to German and pretend she had no idea what they were talking about. No matter where we were going or what time of year it was, she was always concerned if we weren’t planning to bring a coat. Since she wore her heavy winter coat even on the hottest day of August; obviously we were all cold too. Something I’ll carry with me most, however, is that Grandma passed a love of music through her family, and we shared that love. Some of my favorite moments were spent playing the piano for her. She would sit and listen to me play anything I was working on for hours, and loved that her passion had manifested again in her grandchildren. I could be playing something classical or the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song. It didn’t matter to her. As long as she could hear it, she wouldn’t stop telling me how proud she was.
From granddaughter Camille:
Some of my favorite memories of Grandma were from when I was in 6th grade. I had a family history project to do and I got to “interview” her for all of her recipes, which are still my favorite, and some of her old stories from Austria. She was such a good storyteller and I’m glad I got to listen and document pieces of her life when she was younger. Looking back, it’s crazy to think how those experiences shaped not only her but also her children and grandchildren. Although I didn’t get to see her often once I began college, I will always miss getting to see her face whenever I come home.
From granddaughter Lana:
It’s hard to pick just a few favorite memories of someone who filled so many people’s lives with love and laughter. My favorite memories of Grandma were all of the little things that made her who she was. She had a never-ending love for “crumpets” and all things sweet. One time, as her memory faded, I was determined to see just how much she could eat. I brought her piece after piece of key lime pie and, unbeknownst to her, by the end of the day she had eaten half of the pie by herself. Her sweets were always accompanied by a perpetual cup of twice reheated coffee that just never seemed to have enough cream or sugar. It didn’t matter what time it was, she was always happy to sit down and drink a cup of java, as she liked to call it. She loved spending time with her family, and had this funny inability to sit still for pictures because she was too busy singing. Anytime there was work to be done, she could be found with a watchful eye and plenty of suggestions and advice, all of which earned her the affectionate title of The Supervisor. When it was time for everyone to leave, she and Jocko would stand on the front porch and wave goodbye until everyone was out of sight. At the end of the day, that’s who she was to me and that’s how I’ll remember her. A million little things added up to be one incredible mother, grandma, and friend, standing on the porch, waving goodbye.
Memorial services will be held at 2:30 on Saturday, September 19 at Saint Eugene Parish in Asheville. The service can be viewed live at steugene.org and will be available afterward on the church’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/StEugeneChurch/videos.