John Hellmann

Obituary of John Hellmann

John R. Hellmann Sr., formerly of Old Tappan, New Jersey passed into the arms of the Lord on December 15, 2017 at the Atrium at The Village at Penn State. Born and baptized Richard Hans Joachim Hellmann on April 30, 1922 in Halle, Germany to Otto August and Hedwig Lange Hellmann, John immigrated at age 2-1/2 to the United States.

Settling first in Union City, the family moved to Bergenfield, New Jersey in 1929, where John learned the craft of landscaping and floristry from his parents. His love of flora and fauna and the great outdoors was instilled in this rural setting, where he was active in Boy Scouts of America Troop 61. Many are the tales of hiking, camping, pioneering, and volunteering with his compadres in Troop 61, with whom many he remained in touch for his entire life.

John graduated from Tenafly High School in 1941, and after a brief stint as a nurseryman with Winnefield and Blume Florists, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942. He trained as an infantryman in the 398th Infantry Regiment of the 100th Division at Fort Jackson SC, and then volunteered for parachute school in 1943. He earned his parachutist wings at Camp Mackall and Fort Benning and completed his training with the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team of the 17th Airborne Division in 1944. He shipped to England in 1944, where he completed his maneuver training as a machine gun squad leader in the 3rd Battalion, Headquarters Company of the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment while stationed at Tidworth Barracks on the Salisbury Plain. His regiment was flown to the continent at the start of the Battle of the Bulge, where he participated in numerous assaults in the vicinity of Flamierge, Belgium. He was subsequently captured during the final assault on Flamierge by a SS Panzer Grenadier counter attack on January 9th, 1945. After a month long march, he was interned as a POW in Stalag 12A in Limburg, Germany. He was liberated by elements of the U.S. 3rd Army on April 15, 1945, and returned to Staten Island, NY via Germany, Belgium, France, and England. He ended his military service with the rank of corporal, and an honorable discharge in December 1945.

He married the love of his life, Vivian Antoinette Petrone on October 27, 1946, and raised two children, Diane Jean Hellmann and John Richard Hellmann Jr, after settling in the rural wilds of Old Tappan, New Jersey. John was self-employed as a nurseryman/landscaper, and served as the grounds superintendent at the Old Tappan Public Golf Course for nearly 20 years until retirement in 1986. He and Vivian spent the next two decades travelling and spending time with their friends and family throughout the continental US, and at their country camp in Columbus, New York. John and Vivian moved to State College, PA in 2000 and built a new house near their son John Jr.; they subsequently resided in the assisted living facilities at The Village at Penn State. Vivian passed away on New Year's Eve 2015 in the company of John and family.

John was an active member of the Alpine Tenakill Lodge #77 of the Free and Accepted Masons, and served through all of the elected ranks of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6467 in Bergenfield, NJ. He was an avid student of colonial America and the Native American population that inhabited New Jersey and New York, and could often be seen in the audience at presentations and functions of numerous historical societies in the area. His Sunday afternoon countryside strolls, kids and friends in tow, searching for artifacts, were powerful bonding events. He was blessed by the many long-time friends he made in his many activities. He frequently commented on how he missed seeing you all once he and Vivian moved to Pennsylvania!

John and Vivian are survived by their daughter Diane Jean Hellmann of Malone, New York and son John Jr. (Kathleen) of State College, PA. They were blessed with six grandchildren (Daniel, Michael, and Jonathan Hellmann, and Sara, Warren and John Gerow), and seven great-grandchildren (Logan and Cole Hellmann, Kalystah Batemen, Brexyss, Brinleigh, Evangeline and Austyn Grace Gerow).

The family would like to extend their deepest appreciation to the staff at the Atrium at The Village at Penn State for the wonderful and thoughtful care you gave both John and Vivian over the past eight years. You became family, and we are forever grateful.

Those who knew John well knew he had the greenest of thumbs; in lieu of flowers, the family asks that you plant something that will carry on and grow in his memory! He'll take it from there! A celebration of both John and Vivian's lives will be held in the spring; date to be announced.

Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home, State College. Online condolences and signing of the guest book may be entered at or visit us on Facebook.