Former radio station owner Mark Hellinger with Toby, a dog recently adopted from the county shelter. Hellinger is again opening his home during the holidays to any and everyone.
At his home near the southern county line, Mark Hellinger, the former owner of two radio stations here, sat wrapped in a “Snuggie” blanket behind a microphone stand and other audio equipment, with a long line of pill bottles beside him last Wednesday.
When asked if the microphone is hooked up, the 38-year broadcast journalism veteran, says, “Oh, hell no. I figured I’ll die sitting in this chair and I want to die behind a microphone.”
Hellinger suffers from an undisclosed terminal condition and is using hospice services, but other than the fact he wobbles and walks with a cane and is wrapped in a Snuggie on a relatively warm day, the one-time owner of WYYZ and WIVL shows few signs of being one foot in the grave – other than his humor.
Getting directions to his house, I remarked that “he is at the dead end?” His retort, “in more ways than one.”
As Progress readers may know, Hellinger ran letters for a Thanksgiving open house where “anyone and everyone” was welcome – bring food and drop by was about it for plans.
It went over so well he is doing it again Christmas Day.
Hellinger said he was amazed at the general outpouring of concerned people for Thanksgiving as well as the wide-ranging diversity of those who visited his home on Basia Lane, off Highway 108. He described it as sort of like Noah’s Ark – two of all different kinds came aboard.
Among those in attendance for Thanksgiving:
• A man who came from his second-home cabin in this area with a case of wine, wearing a suit.
• A tattooed singer came from Cartersville after seeing his letter to the editor. Hellinger didn’t know where she came across the copy of the Progress. The woman said she had to drag her boyfriend who thought the whole thing sounded weird. He told Hellinger before he left that it was his best Thanksgiving ever. They had to borrow gas money to get back home. Hellinger said they did a pass-the-hat collection, but the couple only took $6 saying that was enough.
• A local truck driver who also has a family member with a terminal illness and who now talks with Hellinger regularly on the phone.
While not there on Thanksgiving, Hellinger said he received numerous calls from people who all wanted to do something. He said several offered money which he didn’t accept as it wasn’t what his open house was about. He said one person called and immediately asked if the whole event “was a scam.”
One person brought him a poinsettia and a lady from Hill City was insistent about helping out in some way. They eventually settled on her children making handmade centerpieces for his Thanksgiving tables which are still displayed in his home.
Among the most touching to Hellinger was an elderly lady who walked from her car with a cane and started crying when he opened the door. She was unable to speak clearly due to her own health problems, but left him some angel decorations.
And while she didn’t come to the party, Hellinger now talks regularly with a woman in Indiana who somehow came across a copy of the letter that someone had scanned from the Progress and posted on Facebook.
If you look in the letters to the editor this week, you’ll see a letter from Hellinger about his Christmas event.