ShareThis Page

Dedicated mother worked hard for family

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 11:07 p.m.
Helen M. Pless Wilhelm of Aliquippa, formerly of Coraopolis, died on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, in Heritage Valley Beaver hospital in Brighton. She was 79.
Helen M. Pless Wilhelm of Aliquippa, formerly of Coraopolis, died on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, in Heritage Valley Beaver hospital in Brighton. She was 79.

As a postal carrier for nearly two decades, Helen Wilhelm walked along endless cracked sidewalks and streets jammed with piles of snow. In frigid cold and blistering heat, she'd often encounter unchained dogs with questionable temperaments.

“She was always determined. She was a good mom. She was good to her boys. She was always a very hardworking person,” said James R. Wilhelm, one of Mrs. Wilhelm's two children and the investigations/projects editor at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Helen M. Pless Wilhelm of Aliquippa, formerly of Coraopolis, died on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, in Heritage Valley Beaver hospital in Brighton. She was 79 and died of respiratory problems.

The youngest of eight children of the late Herminia Johannes and George Pless, Mrs. Wilhelm was born on Jan. 18, 1933, in Searights, Fayette County, a coal mining community.

“We grew up pretty much country-style and moved around a lot,” said Adam Pless of Ambridge, Mrs. Wilhelm's older brother.

Their father was a stable boss, who managed horses that went into coal mines. Their mother died when Mrs. Wilhelm was 7, which left her older sister, Catherine Barna, in charge of raising two younger siblings.

“We were a lot of work for our older sister — cooking, making sure we got to school,” said Pless, who was 10 when his mother died.

After graduating from Redstone High School in Republic, Mrs. Wilhelm — like many of her relatives — headed to Beaver County, then a thriving area of heavy manufacturing.

She met her husband, James S. Wilhelm, while working in the tin mill at the Jones & Laughlin Steel plant in Aliquippa. The two wed on March 1, 1954, in St. Titus Roman Catholic Church in Aliquippa and were married for 47 years until his death in March 2001.

In the early years of their marriage, the Wilhelms worked different shifts at the plant, while grandparents often looked after the couple's two children.

Eventually, Mrs. Wilhelm took a job with more flexible hours, working as a waitress in the coffee shop at the old Pittsburgh International Airport.

Occasionally, she'd serve well- known people like the fabled 1960s Pirates players. One day, she brought her boys a baseball autographed with names like Clemente and Mazeroski.

Several years later — when her son and friends wanted to play baseball and could find no other ball — they played with the autographed one.

“That was the end of that ball. My mother was disappointed. Dad was really angry, probably because he knew how much that baseball would be worth,” James Wilhelm said.

In 1966, Mrs. Wilhelm started a career with the Postal Service that would last for more than 20 years. She spent 17 of them as a letter carrier, working on foot.

In addition to her son James and brother, Adam, Mrs. Wilhelm is survived by another son, Thomas R. Wilhelm of Aliquippa, and a sister, Catherine Barna of Leetsdale, as well as two granddaughters, Kathryn Wilhelm of Boston and Sarah Wilhelm of Perrysburg, Ohio.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday in Tatalovich Funeral Home, 2205 McMinn St., Aliquippa. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. Friday in St. Titus Roman Catholic Church, 952 Franklin Ave., Aliquippa, followed by burial in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Hopewell Township.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. Titus Roman Catholic Church, the American Cancer Society or the Alzheimer's Association of America.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.