Alice K. Helm, wife of former government official Lewis Marshall Helm and a leading tobacco-control activist, died of lung cancer on Sunday, June 22, 2003 at her home in Bethesda. She was 75.
Mrs. Helm never smoked but she was frequently in the presence of smokers at work and elsewhere in the years when there were few restrictions on tobacco use. Each year 53,000 American nonsmokers die of illnesses caused by breathing other people's tobacco smoke, the Centers for Disease Control estimate. Mrs. Helm was diagnosed with lung cancer last September.
Alice Helm was an attorney with an engaging wit who worked for seven federal departments before retiring in 1992 from the Agency for International Development, according to Doug Tipperman, executive director of the Montgomery County Community Partnership.
The prevalence of smoking in federal offices aroused her interest in tobacco-control issues more than 20 years ago.
She became increasingly involved in a wide array of activities, including efforts to warn the public about the dangers of smoking and smoke pollution, efforts to increase Maryland's cigarette tax, outlaw smoking in workplaces and prisons, and prohibit merchants from displaying cigarettes where they could easily be stolen by children. She was co-chair of the Smoke-Free Montgomery County Coalition and a former board member of the Smoke-Free Maryland Coalition.
"She provided the passion needed to create social change," said Tipperman.
“This wonderful woman has achieved many things that made this a better world," said John O'Hara, founder and president of Maryland Group Against Smoking.
When one pro-smoking group passed out buttons at a public hearing saying ‘say no to anti-Alice Helm,’ she pinned one on and proudly wore it for weeks.
Just a few days before her death Mrs. Helm wrote a statement supporting a bill before the Montgomery County Council that would ban smoking in all bars and restaurants. Her husband, Lew Helm read her remarks at a public hearing June 12.
Alice Helm graduated from the City College of New York in 1948 and the Columbia University law school in 1950. She later received outstanding alumni awards from both schools. She headed their alumni associations in the Washington, D.C. area and was a member of Columbia's national alumni board.
She met Lew. Helm on a blind date; they were married for 49 years. In 1950 she came to Washington as a member of a special commission that was investigating the Department of Justice. Later, she joined the department's legal staff. From there she moved to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, the Commerce Department, Indian Claims Commission, Federal Election Commission and AID. She retired in 1985.
She was the author of the “Family Legal Advisor,” which sold more than a million copies. Her many civic activities included chairing the Montgomery County Commission on Aging, membership on the advisory committee of the Montgomery County Jail and the board of the Maryland Respite Care Committee. She worked closely with a number of prison inmates to help resolve their problems. And she played a leading role in bringing an end to smoking at the Kennedy Center and the restaurant at Wolf Trap.
Her husband Lew Helm is a retired Army Reserve brigadier general and was an assistant secretary for public affairs at the former Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He also was a commission member and chair of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
Alice Helm's brother, Theodore Roosevelt Kupferman of New York, was a member of Congress from New York and a member of the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court.
Her late father, Samuel Kupferman, once ran for Congress. He and his wife, Gertrude Kupferman, also deceased, named her Alice Longworth Kupferman after Alice Longworth Roosevelt. Her brother was named after President Theodore Roosevelt.
Alice and Lewis wrote and produced 100 shows for News Counterpoint, a local television show.
The funeral will be at St. Andrews United Methodist Church, 5910 Goldsboro Road, Bethesda, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.on Wednesday, June 25. The burial will at the Warrenton, Va. Cemetery at 3:30 p.m. in the Helm family plot.
Mrs. Helm requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Montgomery County Community Partnership, 504 East Diamond Ave., Suite H. Gaithersburg, MD 20877.