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One Soldier’s Story

The Ninth Ward Victory Arch, on the list of  “White Men Who Died in Service,” includes “HELLMERS, WM. L.” Here is his story.

William Louis “Willie” Hellmers was the oldest of four sons born to Johann “John” Friedrich Hellmers and Eva Maria (Geeck) Hellmers of New Orleans, Louisiana. He was born 18 August 1893, and was baptized at St. Paul Lutheran Church on Sunday, 8 October 1893. He was confirmed at St. Paul Lutheran Church on Sunday, 30 April 1905.
 
The children of
John Frederick Hellmers and 
Eva Maria (Geeck) Hellmers (ca 1899).

Left: William L. Hellmers
Center: Herbert C. Hellmers
Right: Milton J. Hellmers

Confirmation of
William Louis Hellmers
April 1905

After limited schooling, he worked as a “Bell Boy” at the Montleone Hotel, at 214 Royal Street. Later city directories list him as a “laborer” living at 1113 France Street, where he lived with his mother.

William was a woodworker by trade, specializing in parquetry (inlaying woods in geometric patterns in floors and furniture). He was a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

In June of 1917, when he was living with his mother, he was required to register for the military draft associated with what later became known as World War I. On his draft registration card, his occupation was listed as a self-employed “Contractor Hardwood Work.” The record said that he was tall, had a medium build, with blue eyes and brown hair. He was then 23 years old.

On 29 May 1918, William Hellmers enlisted at Camp Beauregard (near Pineville), Louisiana. His unit was Company M of the 300th Infantry of the A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Force). His Army serial number was 1619576. He was sent to France, and was said to have participated in the Chateau-Thierry and Meuse-Argonne campaigns.

Because of illness, he was returned to the United States to Camp Merritt, New Jersey, where he died of pleurisy on 17 August 1919, one day short of his 26th birthday. His body was returned to New Orleans by train, where it was interred in St. Vincent de Paul Cemetery.

In 1925, his remains were removed and reinterred in a small mausoleum on Avenue B in Metairie Cemetery, vault No. 142. The vault has the following inscription:

WILLIAM LOUIS HELLMERS
DIED AUG. 17, 1919
AT CAMP MERRITT, N.J.
CO. M.  300TH INFANTRY, A.E.F.
William L. Hellmers was my great-uncle.

Norm Hellmers
14 October 2002

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