Maple Street Pavilion named after former Helmetta mayor

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KATHY CHANG/STAFF
The Maple Street Pavilion in Helmetta is dedicated to former Mayor Ronald C. Wilson. His children unveiled the original beam from the George Helme Snuff Mill Factory with with their father's name on it at Helmetta Day on Sept. 22.

HELMETTA — Ronald C. Wilson may have been born in Pennsylvania, but he was Mr. Helmetta, according to his son, Randy Wilson.

The elder Wilson’s loved ones, along with borough officials and the public, held a dedication ceremony of the Maple Street Pavilion in memory of the man who wore many hats during Helmetta Day on Sept. 22.

Wilson passed away in 2016 at age 86.

Family and friends, many of whom traveled from Ohio and Pennsylvania, said the naming of the pavilion was fitting for the man who once served as the borough’s mayor, councilman, chief of the Helmetta Volunteer Fire Department, a member of the Helmetta Board of Education, a past cubmaster, and an usher at Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Helmetta.

“As his family, we are very proud of the citizen he was,” Randy Wilson said. “He was a great husband, father, Poppy and friend to many.”

Randy Wilson said his father was adopted by William and Eugenia Wilson and grew up on Railroad Avenue. Later, he moved to Ericson Avenue with his grammar school sweetheart, Marge, and eventually built a home on Lake Avenue. Marge, who was at the ceremony and was the borough’s former tax collector, still lives in the home.

Wilson worked at the former George W. Helme Snuff Mill factory along Railroad Avenue and Main Street for 44 years before retiring in 1984 as a plant manager. He is also a U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War and attained the rank of sergeant.

“He served as the mayor and was very instrumental in getting water for the town as opposed to just well water,” Randy Wilson said. “He also served as a borough councilman, served on the Board of Education and Planning Board. While a member of the Shade Tree Commission, he assisted the Boy Scouts in planting the original trees along the railroad tracks. He also worked the polls as a member of the Election Board.”

Randy Wilson said his father was very involved with the Helmetta Volunteer Fire Department.

“By holding bingos at [Holy Trinity Church], the fire department was able to build [their] new firehouse in 1999 without a burden to the taxpayers,” he said.

Wilson was a Little League coach, was active in the Indian Guides, was a Cub Scout leader, and helped at the scout’s Pinewood Derbies. He worked the carnivals at Holy Trinity, called bingo numbers and was an usher at mass. He was also active as a member of the local Knights of Columbus, American Legion and VFW.

Current Mayor Chris Slavicek, who welcomed everyone to Helmetta Day, said Helmetta is a very small town with the biggest heart.

“There’s no words to describe Ronald Wilson’s service to the community as a leader and volunteer,” he said, adding Wilson’s “witty and charismatic” ways will forever last in the borough.

Slavicek presented a proclamation to the family.

Duane Hoven, president of the Helmetta Volunteer Fire Department, said Wilson is one of the patriarchs of the borough known as “Ron,” “Ronnie,” “Mr. Wilson” and “the old man.”

Hoven said when he joined the fire department in 1995, Wilson was serving his last few years as treasurer of the department

“He never missed a bingo,” Hoven said. “Ronnie and I had conversations about sports, NASCAR, the Army, my kids. We talked and I learned a lot through our conversations.”

At the ceremony, Wilson’s children Ronald, Randy, Sharon and Susan unveiled their father’s name memorialized on an original beam from the snuff mill, which is now affixed to the pavilion, as their mother looked on.

Along with the Wilson dedication ceremony, Helmetta Day was filled with activities for children, food and desserts, and a fireworks display.

Contact Kathy Chang at [email protected].