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Earlene Anne Bates Helderman, age 76, passed away peacefully Friday, November 30th, 2018 in Grand Rapids, MI.
Earlene was born April 14th, 1942 in Sault Ste. Marie, MI, the only daughter of Arthur C. Bates and Marjorie Lee (Raeburn) Bates. She graduated from Sault High School in 1960 as a National Merit Scholar.
She attended Michigan State University, receiving a BA in Theatre Arts, and an MA in Costume Design in 1972. While at MSU she acted in several productions, and in 1965, performed in a production of The Boys From Syracuse that toured American military bases in Greenland, Newfoundland, etc, for the USO.
She was unique…A lover of life. Her passions ranged far and wide. She always gave her best and wanted everyone’s creative best even if she had to piss you off to get it. She loved to cook classic French cuisine, was an avid reader, she loved foreign film, gardening, music, drawing, entertaining, and staying up until dawn with good friends. After moving to Grand Rapids in 1971, she was a force in the local theater community, as both a costume designer and as a truly formidable actress. She collaborated with Civic Theatre, Circle Theatre, Actor’s Theatre, Robeson Player’s, and Opera Grand Rapids, among others, and helped to mold a generation of players and audiences alike.
She will be lovingly remembered by her son, Nathan Thomas Helderman and daughter–in- law Joni Rene (Watson) Helderman; Steve Helderman and her extended family in Lansing; Craig Hammerlind (Neal), Ken Tepper, Matt Tepper (Lynne), Judy Tordoff, and so many more stitchers, players, singers, dancers, photographers, artists, writers, and pirates that learned and grew at her salon on Benjamin.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the community theater of your choice; or to Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.
A Memorial Service to celebrate Earlene’s life will be held on Saturday, January 26, 2019, at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre located at 30 N. Division, Grand Rapids, MI.  The event will begin at 1:00 pm and is open to the community.

To send a message of sympathy to the family, sign Earlene’s online guest book, or to share a favorite memory, please visit: www.MichiganCremation.com

Arrangements were entrusted to Michigan Cremation & Funeral Care, Grand Rapids.

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2 Comments

  1. Craig Hammerlind on December 10, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    My friend, I shall miss you. Until we meet again. Thanks for keeping the promise we made. Love you always, Earlene.



  2. Rock Kauffman on January 15, 2019 at 11:55 pm

    Earlene…You were a force early on in my life coming out and coaching me with getting comfortable with myself…I will always cherish your friendship with Craigers (Craige Hammerlind) really my first BF…You were always the real deal…I hope mom (Sharon Failey) has already greeted you on the other side of the gates…I know you will always have an audience on this side and will create another Benjamin St hangout above the stars…soar dear soul…soar…God Bless You Nathan/Craigers and family… Rock



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