Neal Gardner Helms

September 9, 2020

CHARLOTTE - Neal Gardner Helms, beloved husband to Patricia Gabriel Helms, father to Melissa Helms Smith and Becky Helms Smarr, grandfather to Taylor & Hannah Smarr III, Preston & Kristen Smith Asbill, Michael & Amy Smith, Elizabeth Smarr, John Neal Smarr, Maggie Smarr & Hannah Smarr, and great grandfather to Paisley & Bowman Neal Smith, passed away peacefully at his home on September 9,2020. He lived a rich and full life as an Airforce and Airforce National Guard member, N.C. Attorney, faithful church member and spear header and leader of many ministry programs. He was 85 years of age.

Neal Gardner Helms was born on October 30, 1934 in Monroe N.C. and was the son of the late Henry Lee Helms and Annie Willie Gardner Helms. He was preceded in death by his brother Henry Lee Helms Jr.

Neal grew up in Lincolnton N.C., he enjoyed living in this small town and going to his grandparent’s farm in South Carolina during the summer to work the farm and spend time with his cousins and grandparents. He graduated from Lincolnton High School and attended Brevard College. He then joined the Airforce to become a navigator and flew across the country on many training and official missions. Later in his life, he joined the Air National Guard, also as a navigator, and went on to fly many missions across the country as well as around the world. After, he left the Airforce, Neal went back to college to finish his undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Once he received his undergraduate degree, he attended Law School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he received his Law degree and became a UNC Tar Heel for life.

After returning to college, Neal met the love of his life, Patricia Ann Gabriel on a blind date. He was head over heels for her and her large family of 4 sisters and 1 brother with lively parents who loved him back just as much. Neal and Pat were married on June 4, 1961 and went on to have 2 daughters, 7 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. There was never a moment when he did not love, support, provide, and enjoy his family.

He began practicing law in Charlotte North Carolina in 1963 and continued for over 45 years retiring in 2009 from the Parham Helms and Harris Law Firm. He was the Legal Counsel for the Homebuilders Association for several years and served as a leader in other public forums within the mortgage industry. He loved using his law expertise to help others and spent hundreds of hours donating legal services to non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity, several churches in the Charlotte area, as well as missionaries Evelyn Davis from Wycliff Bible Translators and Don and Romona Turman from Indonesia.

It gave Neal great joy to be involved in meaningful ministries both from within and outside of his church Providence United Methodist. He enjoyed every minute of being a Sunday School teacher, usher, Reach Out for First Time Visitors, Pine needles sale, Original Founder and volunteer for Room at the Inn, being in Disciple Bible Studies, being a Disaster Relief volunteer, and participating in United Methodist Men. He wholeheartedly served in leadership roles on the Finance Committee and as chair, an Evangelist committee chairperson, Board of Trustees chair, Administrative Board, Local Missions chairperson and Christ Care Leader. Upon receiving recognition from Providence Methodist Church in their First Fruits Ministry, Neal’s wife Pat had this quote to say about her husband. “He is a selfless, giving and humble man who has never said an unkind word about anyone.”

All the things Neal involved himself in were meaningful and genuine natural extensions of who he was. This rang true daily even more to his family. As the “Rock of Ages”, Jesus Christ, is the foundation for our Christian faith and relationship with God our Father, so Neal was the rock and foundation of his family and he was loved and cherished, needed and most important in their lives. His absence on earth, though sweet and wonderful to think of him in heaven in God’s presence and reunited with his lovely wife, parents, brother, other precious family members and friends that have passed is a loss to be mourned. Taking this time to remember and share our memories and reflections of him and what he meant to each of us will bring comfort. Thank you for sharing and remembering with us. The truth is bittersweet. His absence from us on earth, having experienced his great capacity to love completely as a father who genuinely loved his wife, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, and love as brother, son, uncle, cousin and friend will be greatly missed and is the “the bitter part”. Having Neal to love and be loved by as someone rare that truly lived his life joyfully giving to those around him whatever he could for whatever they needed has been such a gift and blessing to us all. Knowing he is at total peace in heaven comforts us and is “the sweet part”.

His impact and the presence of his heart and soul will always be with us whether on earth or in heaven.
But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 15:54-56

A private memorial service will be held at 3:00 PM, Saturday, September 19, 2020 with live-streaming.  Click the following link for viewing the service. 

Memorials can be made to Veterans Bridge Home, 2200 E. 7th Street, Charlotte, NC 28204

Homes for Our Troops 6 Main Street, Taunton, MA 02780

Arrangements are in the care of Kenneth W. Poe Funeral & Cremation Service, 1321 Berkeley Ave., Charlotte, NC 28204; (704) 641-7606.

Click on link below to view slideshow that will be played at the service.

Mr. and Mrs. Helms

Share your memories & condolences


  • David Lowe

    I am an old friend from Lincolnton. I remember Gardner from out young days, school, First United Methodist Church , Brevard College and simply doing things kids and young people do...We discovered each other several years ago and had very pleasant stories of our past. Glad to know Gardner...

  • Scott Morton

    I am so glad to have been able to watch the online service and hear the beautiful tributes. I will always have happy memories of Neal's kind nature, easy laugh and attentiveness to us kids on football Saturdays: station wagon rides, Blue Mist barbecue, picnics by the rock, and cheering under the upper deck at Kenan Stadium.. In addition, memories of Sunset Beach trips and New Year's Day celebrations are still vivid, and I am so thankful to have so many of these "happy childhood" remembrances that involve the entire Helms family. Thanks for sharing the service online!

  • Melvin McIntosh

    It was such a joy to know Gardner while we were both attending Brevard College in the early 1950s. He brought excitement as well as kindness to all his relationships. After Brevard, we went our separate ways, but it was great to be able to renew acquaintances with him while attending an event at Providence UMC. It was also a blessing to view the slide show of Gardner and his family. Thanks for posting that! We, at Myers Park UMC, also supported Don and Ramona Turman, as missionaries in Indonesia, and I am sure they appreciated the kind service shown to them by Gardner. May God forever bless the family, with their wonderful memories.

  • Evie Shinn

    So sorry to hear about Neal’s passing, but delighted to know he is celebrating his eternal life with Pat & all those many people he has touched.. I was privileged to be his and Pat’s neighbor for 10 years in Charlotte. My late husband, Jay, passed away 4 years ago, I’m sure there will be a heavenly and joyous reunion!
    Missy, Becky, Phyllis you have my heartfelt condolences, love,& prayers at this time of loss. Evie

  • Carol Lewis

    Melissa, I was so saddened to hear about your dad. It was a privilege to work with Neal for 13 years at the law firm of Parham, Helms & Kellam, I learned a lot from him about real estate law. He was one of the kindest and smartest men I have ever known. He was a good son, a good brother, a good husband, a good father and a great friend. At the firm, we all worked hard, laughed hard and shared a lot of of our free time together. I remember the 4th of July cookouts in the parking lot on Morehead Street. I remember the chartered bus at Christmas with trips to the Biltmore House, PTL lights and McAdenville lights. It was like a big family back then. I remember great office lunches at the Chateau and the mortgage banker BBQ every year at the Red Fez club. It was without a doubt a fun place to work. I still have fond memories of the times we all spent together. I know how much you all will miss Neal, or as your mom always called him, Gardner. He was definitely a man of faith, and he missed your mom so much after she passed away, i am certain he is now in his heavenly home probably with an unlit cigar hanging out of his mouth. My thoughts and prayers are with you at this time. Carol Tedder Lewis

  • Sylvia and Ed Elam

    Ed and I are saddened by Neal's passing. We have fond memories of spending time with both Neal and Pat. They were so proud of their family which brought them great joy. We hope the family will find peace and solace as they morn his loss. He meant a great deal to a lot of people and will be missed.