Ben Helmke grew up on a farm in Pratt County, Kansas in the 1930s. He served as an organist in the Army chaplain’s office at Camp Schimmelpfennig (now Camp Sendai) in Japan. Helmke graduated from Hastings College and McCormick Seminary and got his masters in social work from the University of Michigan. He and his wife Polly raised three children and he started his own mental health clinic. Late in life, he came out as gay to his wife and children. He lived happily with his partner Len Quenon for 25 years.
Ben Helmke was interviewed by students from Skyline High School in Ann Arbor in 2016 as part of the Legacies Project.
Pioneer High School Student Composer Philip Stoll Conducting, November 1973 Photographer: Cecil Lockard
Ann Arbor News, November 2, 1973
Pioneer High Composer Philip Stoll Conducts Symphony Orchestra