A tribute to Indy columnist Skip Hellewell

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By Rob Hellewell

Skip Hellewell and his wife, Clare. Photo courtesy of the Hellewell family.

With great sadness, we announce the passing of Skip Hellewell. For the past six years, Skip has written the “Finding Meaning” column for the Indy. During that time, he authored nearly 300 articles covering a wide range of topics. Skip greatly enjoyed researching and writing his column. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of Laguna’s history and places, but most of all, he loved its people.

Though he loved the church he attended and was a lifelong member, he also greatly respected the other churches in Laguna and people of other faiths. Curious by nature, he enjoyed attending Friday night Shabbat services, loved the beautiful stained-glass window at Laguna Presbyterian, the reverence during the Eucharist at St. Catherine of Siena, and singing “How Great Thou Art” at Church by the Sea.

There was more to Skip than meets the eye. He deeply loved his wife and partner of 57 years, Clare (he never actually called her the “beautiful wife” except in his columns). He was a devoted father to six and a doting grandfather to 23. A substantial portion of his life was spent providing service to others.

His hope was that those reading his column would find the deep sense of purpose and meaning he discovered himself during his 82 years. As Skip would say, “There’s meaning in that.”

Obituary: Robert “Skip” Leland Hellewell

Robert “Skip” Leland Hellewell died December 23, 2023, just two days after being diagnosed with acute leukemia. When the doctor somberly informed him of his terminal diagnosis, Skip smiled and said, “It’s been a really great ride!” He wasn’t kidding.

Indy columnist Skip Hellewell (center in blue) stands with his family in Laguna Beach. Photo courtesy of the Hellewell family.

The ride started October 7, 1941, in Sacramento, Calif., where Skip spent his early years with his loving parents, Robert and Nina Hellewell, and nine siblings. At a young age, his grandmother called him the “Skipper,” a nickname that stuck with him his entire life. Some of Skip’s fondest memories were of time spent at the family cabin in Baxter, Calif. He attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, receiving a degree in mechanical engineering. He later earned an MBA from Pepperdine University.

Skip met the love of his life, Clare Anne Huber, while she was a student at BYU. Skip and Clare were married in 1967 and moved to Southern California, where they raised their six children. This year was their 57th wedding anniversary.

Skip spent his career as a biomedical engineer, including a stint at a successful start-up medical device company. He retired at age 55 but never quite grasped the traditional concept of retirement, reinventing himself as a “by-the-sea” author. He spent the next 25 years, in his own words, “entertaining grandchildren and writing on topics of interest.” Writing projects included Loving Laguna, A Local’s Guide to Laguna BeachZion by the Sea, the history of the Laguna Beach congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and family histories Midway to Heaven, and I Love You Truly, The Lessons of Our Lives. He also authored a popular nutrition blog, www.wordofwisdomliving.squarespace.com. He loved Laguna Beach, its people and its quirkiness. At the time of his death, he was working on the 100-year history of his beloved Three Arch Bay community.

A devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Skip served as a full-time missionary in Central America, where he remained lifelong friends with the people he taught and served. For many years, he served as scoutmaster, helping dozens of young men achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. He served twice as a bishop and loved his work as a local church historian.

Skip struck many as quite serious, but a playful sense of humor lurked just beneath the surface. For the several hundred Boy Scouts at Camp Anza in 1983 who reported Bigfoot sightings, that was just Skip running around at night dressed in a full-length gorilla costume. He loved making fake cakes out of cardboard, elaborately decorating them with icing and delivering them to unsuspecting friends. Other practical jokes featured complicated mechanical contraptions drawn from his engineering knowledge.

Frugality was a fundamental part of Skip’s nature. He washed out and reused plastic garbage and sandwich bags (“Look, good as new!”), refused to buy a gas- or electric-powered lawn mower (“This manual one works just fine!”) and never bought a new car (“Loses 20 percent of its value the minute you drive off the lot!”). He lived a life of self-sufficiency, repairing his own vehicles, doing his own painting and plumbing, and was in the process of repairing his roof just before his diagnosis.

If Skip coveted anything, it was more knowledge. He was a voracious reader driven by an intense, lifelong curiosity. His greatest treasures were his family, church, and friends. He was a hard worker, loved researching and writing, and never met a historical site or marker he didn’t like. He maintained a large network of friends and acquaintances, loved striking up conversations with strangers, and making new friends. His wish was to pass down the values and lessons learned in his life to his family and the rising generation.

Funeral services for Skip will be held Saturday, January 6, 2024, at 10 a.m., at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Avenue, Laguna Beach.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Skip was a real optimist. I had the pleasure of editing “Finding Meaning” all through Covid. I think we all benefited from some reflection during those tough days. Skip and I didn’t always agree but we had a collegial editor-columnist relationship. I’m sure it took a great dose of humility to be edited by someone 50 years younger than him. Best wishes to Clare and the beautiful family he loved dearly.

    Sincerely,

    Daniel Langhorne
    Executive Editor of The Independent (2020-2022)

  2. I am very saddened to hear of his passing. His articles always got you thinking. He will be missed as will his observations on life.

  3. Sorry to hear of Skip’s passing. I enjoyed his columns and the wisdom within. So different from my column “Pet Peeves” where you learned nothing. My best wishes to his family and the enlightened readers who will miss him greatly.

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