Helen S. "Smitty" Shank, 86

May 26, 2010
  • Helen S. "Smitty" Shank

JULY 6, 1923-MAY 22, 2010

HAVELOCK, N.C. - Helen S. "Smitty" Shank died Saturday, May 22, 2010, at her home in Havelock.

She was the daughter of Lester and Perry Smith of Cumberland, Md. Helen was born July 6, 1923.

She graduated from Fort Hill High School, Cumberland, class of 1941, where she was a cheerleader, May Queen and had the lead in her senior class play as "Penny Wood." She then graduated from Catherman's College and was subsequently employed at the Celanese Corp. in Cumberland for several years.

Helen was married in July 1944 to 2nd Lt. Jim Shank, a USMC pilot. Jim was from Keedysville, Md. She became a full-time military wife for 27 years. During that time, she became a mother to five children, many times raising their children alone due to Jim's overseas orders.

Helen maintained family homes for her family in Maryland, Florida, Virginia, California, North Carolina and Hawaii. Many of these were only for one to two years at a time. Military quarters were seldom available. She was grateful for how military housing is now better for families today.


Helen served in Craven County, N.C., as a real estate broker for seven years. She was on the Day Care Board at Trinity Presbyterian Church for many years and was very active with the Women of the Church. She was also an avid gardener and was known for her beautiful gardens.

Helen was preceded in death by her parents; son, Greg; brother, Wally Smith; sister, Jean Braeseker; and grandson, Craig Schulz. Her in-laws, Marion and Elaine Shank Harshman, also preceded her in death. Both Greg and Craig were killed in aircraft accidents in the same month of November, but 27 years apart.

Helen was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She is survived by her husband of 68 years, James W. "Jim" Shank. Her children are Dianne and husband, Tim Speake, Barbara Shulz, Doug and wife, Lisa Shank, and Brad and wife, Kathleen Shank. Her grandchildren are Andrew and wife, Trish Speake, Stephen and wife, Lea Speake, Lynne and husband, Chip Lavender, Lisa Shulz, Elizabeth Speake, Cory and sister Nichole Shank; and eight great-grandchildren. Her sister-in-law, June Storm Smith of Cumberland, Md., and brother-in-law, Don Braeseker of Somerset, Pa., also survive.

In place of flowers, contributions may be made to Craven County Home Health & Hospice, 2818 Neuse Blvd., New Bern, NC 28560.

The family will receive friends at Trinity Presbyterian Church from 9:45 to 10:30 a.m. Thursday, prior to the funeral service at 10:30 a.m. The burial will follow at Greenleaf Memorial Park in New Bern.

Those who wish to make online condolences to the family are asked to visit

Arrangements are by Pollock-Best Funerals & Cremations.

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