Helene Schultheis, ASD’s Longest Serving Call Specialist, Retires After 21 Years
Sep 05, 2018
After more than two decades of providing empathy and comfort to funeral home callers, Helene Schultheis, ASD’s most experienced Call Specialist, retired this month. Known affectionately amongst the staff as “Ms. Helene”, she is a beacon of light here in the office that brightens everyone’s day with her warmth and kindness.
How do you even begin to describe a person like Helene? How do you capture the essence of a person whose voice immediately stops you in your tracks and fills your heart with instant love, whose smile replaces any problem or worry with a feeling of abundant optimism? It’s an impossible task – the limits of language make it impossible to fully encapsulate a person whose presence here at ASD has left an indelible mark on each and every one of our employees, not to mention our clients and their callers.
“When I leave here, I feel fulfilled” – Watch the video above to hear Helene explain what working at ASD for the past 21 years has meant to her.
In her 20+ years at our company, Helene has steadily built a legacy of compassion, dedication and kindness. Since 1997, Helene has devoted herself to helping grieving loved ones through the most difficult call they will ever have to make. ASD estimates that during her career here at ASD, Helene has answered more than 750,000 calls and over 50,000 First calls.
When asked a few years ago what she finds most rewarding about working at ASD, Helene explained, “At the end of the day you go home and feel as though you made a difference by helping people. I am very fortunate to work at ASD. I am so proud to be part of this company. ”
Helene joined the ASD family right around the same time new call forwarding options made it possible to offer our services beyond our local area. While our company’s technology and system redundancies have seen thousands of different iterations, Helene’s gentle and patient phone demeanor have remained a constant here at ASD. Her presence always reminds everyone how essential it is to offer a personal touch to funeral home callers. From handling a First Call for a high profile celebrity to assisting callers impacted by major tragedies, Helene’s natural aptitude for providing comfort to the bereaved has never wavered.
“My most difficult calls were the calls that came in on 9/11,” Helene shared. “The callers were stunned and devastated as was the entire country. Our clients and their callers went through some horrific times that day.”
In addition to being very devoted to her family and her work here at ASD, Helene is also very committed to her faith. Her convictions are rooted in a strong belief in the power of prayer. She never fails to ask her colleagues what is going on our lives, or how our families are doing, so that she can include our struggles in her prayers. Helene’s quiet grace and empathy is a true example of someone living their faith to the fullest.
Over the years, Helene made an effort to get to know our clients and to learn more about their lives. One of the most common questions we hear from funeral directors is, “ How is Ms. Helene doing? ” At conventions, her name comes up more than any other. Some can remember her answering their calls over a decade ago with the same warm and compassionate tone of voice. Whether it is in the office or over the phone, Helene leaves a memorable and lasting impression on just about every person she shares an interaction with.
Helene with ASD’s long-time client, Doug Bevelle of Wilmington Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Wilmington, NC, at ASD’s Client Cocktail Party in 2016. Doug became an ASD client in 1998, just a few months after Helene was hired, so these two have shared many conversations over the years.
Last year, ASD presented a special “20 Years of Excellence” Milestone Award to Helene to recognize her commitment to providing the highest level of service and dedication to ASD.
Here are a few photos of Helene after receiving her Milestone Award at our company Christmas luncheon.
Helene’s warmth and sincerity has always made her a welcoming presence to new employees at ASD. Most of our staff would be able to tell you without hesitation about their first interaction with her. It’s like that wonderful quote from Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” Helene just has a way of making everyone feel completely accepted and loved. These one-of-a-kind qualities have greatly endeared her to everyone here at ASD.
To celebrate Helene’s retirement, we asked our current staff and former ASD employees, to share their stories and tributes to Helene. The passages below demonstrate just how highly regarded Helene is by her ASD family.
"Helene has always handled calls as if she personally knows each client she is answering for (and sometimes she did), and handled each call as if it were personal for her to help every caller. She does, and always has, taken her work commitment seriously, as her perfect attendance proves. Many could only benefit from her outstanding work ethic and etiquette.
To know her outside of ASD is just as pleasurable, she is the same genuine person that she is at work. At first, it was difficult to believe someone could be so upbeat and truly kind-hearted ALL THE TIME - but to know her is to believe this is just how she is. This kind of person cannot help but be loved, admired and adored by so many but “our” Helene is!!
Now as we all know, nobody is perfect and even Helene could be trying at times – but those brief moments are gone before you can remember why you thought it was a trying moment!! She can drive you crazy and at the same time drive you to the store if that is what you needed. I have never known her to turn away from someone in need or walk away from someone she “thought” was in need. You just don’t find that kind of person in the world these days.
Whether it’s work, Outlet shopping trips or last minute runs to the “Crab Trap” for soup and every moment in between – I am honored and thankful to have been blessed with her in my life all these years!!
HAPPY RETIREMENT DOLLY!!"-ASD Operations Supervisor, Sue Norbeck, who has worked with Helene for over 20 years.
“I enjoyed working with Helene for over 20 years and I considered her a valuable asset to our company. Helene was a role model employee, dedicated to her position with a friendly presence in the office. Helene achieved perfect attendance for years traveling in inclement weather and staying overnight when needed. Helene enjoyed helping others, interacting with our clients and co-workers. Helene was always pleasant, caring and compassionate towards everyone. Helene was not only an employee/co-worker, but she was part of our ASD family. On a personal note; Helene was extremely supportive during the passing of my parents. Helene always took time out of her day to check on me and lend support. Helene is a true gem!” - ASD Operations Director, Ric Cusumano, who has worked with Helene for more than two decades.
“I worked with Ms. Helene for 21 years. Ms. Helene always had a smile on her face and a story to tell about her beloved granddaughter Brittany, or her dog Precious. Ms. Helene never thought or worried about herself, she was always busy doing something for others. She is truly a one of a kind special person, I feel blessed to have worked with Ms. Helene.” -ASD Operations Manager, Sharon Batten, who has worked with Helene for over 20 years.
“Ms. Helene is well known by both the staff at ASD and our funeral director clients. Directors always ask for her or about her and why wouldn’t they? Helene is a sunny voice on a dreary day, a lady with unbreakable spirit who always brightens your day and always had a compliment to give. As a fellow Taurean, Ms. Helene and I shared a lot of common ground and we always looked forward to seeing each other in the early morning hours. My kids have been born and raised with ASD and Ms. Helene always asked about them and praised the accomplishments they made. She was just as proud of them as if they were her own, even if it was just to recite one of the first cheers my daughter learned and I shared with her: Hey little man, with that football in your hand, keep running” -ASD Training Supervisor, Renee Mancer, who has worked with Helene for more than two decades
“Ms. Helene has always been a ray of sunshine! She can brighten anyone’s day. My favorite memories is of Helene and her pug, Patience. Loved hearing her stories about Patience. Helene would tell us she would feed Patience sliced turkey (no dog food) and Patience had her own chaise chair to lay on. We all tell her how much we wanted to come back as her pug! Ms. Helene is full of love and positivity. Not matter what Helene was going through personally, she always makes you feel good with her smile and funny stories. What a special person. Definitely will be missed.” -ASD Financial Manager, Dara Dix, who has worked with Helene for over 20 years.
“First, I absolutely love Ms. Helene (aka My Sugar Woman). I affectionately gave her the name “Sugar Woman” or “Sugar” because she is one of the most loving, caring, feisty, funny people I have ever met. Myself along with Ms. Helene and Carla would often go out to eat. When it was time to order drinks, Ms. Helene would say, “Just bring a pitcher, that way you don’t have to keep coming back”. Ms. Helene will always have a place in my heart and I will remember her always! Love you Ms. Helene!!” -ASD Operations Supervisor, Donna Twitty, who has worked with Helene for more than 20 years.
"Helene has a special gift in connecting with people. Her caring, compassionate personality shines through in every call. Whether the caller is having the worst day of their life, asking about a funeral service or is a client updating their on-call status, Helene always remains a true professional. The first impression Helene left on me when we met was hard to shake, I have to say we immediately connected and it was friendship at first sight. I've always believed that the people you work with are what makes the job worthwhile, and Helene you once again proved me right. Helene, you have always been my biggest cheerleader, thank you for all the support you've given me throughout the years and the incredible memories. Your guidance and encouragement have helped me get to where I am today both personally and professionally. “Tina” - here’s to a well-deserved and happy retirement! Best wishes!"-ASD Operations Manager, Linda Haas, who has worked with Helene for over 17 years.
"One of the things I looked forward to every morning when Helene would come in was her stopping at the missed opportunity board. Upon seeing that all was good, she would turn and say out loud, “ great job everybody we’re good for another day!” Of course, if the board showed any changes in the opposite direction, she would show great concern and always ask 'was that me?' To which I could only tell her the same answer each time - it would never be you Helene. Once, when I was learning tarot card reading as a hobby, she asked me to do a reading for her. Everyday she would ask 'is it done yet? it wasn’t anything bad, was it?' She always made me laugh. I don’t know if she really cared about the outcome of the reading as much as she did in showing an interest in something I was doing, because she cared about people like that. I would sit up in the evening and write everything out for her to bring in the next day and we built a rapport from there. I learned a a lot about Ms. Helene during those morning moments. She absolutely cared about each client and caller and she would literally touch the screen as they talked to her. My husband and I once ran into Helene at home depot. From that day on, she would ask , “how’s monkey man?” which I called him often when she would ask about him. Helene truly cares about the people she works with and their extended families. She would call me when supervising with a question and start with, 'I know I'm being a pain…' Helene, you were never a pain . Your smile in the morning lit up the place and when you weren’t there, it was truly noticed." -ASD Operations Supervisor, Sandy Gabriel, who has worked with Helene for more than 17 years
“I first met Ms. Helene when I started at ASD at the age of 17. As time passed, we quickly learned that we were from the same neighborhood in Southwest Philly and that her sons went through school with my dad and aunt. Ms. Helene and I have shared countless laughs and endless tears over the last 16 ½ years. I have always thought of her like a 2nd grandmother. I remember her being overjoyed as if she were getting a grandson of her own when she learned I was expecting my little boy. Ms. Helene was there for me when both of my grandparents passed away and even reconnected with a high school friend at my grandmother’s funeral. Ms. Helene and I had many great conversations when I would pick her up bright and early during snowstorms and continue our rounds through surrounding neighborhoods to pick up our Supervisors, Sue & Nadine, to make the trek into the office together. Ms. Helene will be missed dearly within the ASD Family and I wish her the very best on her retirement! Love you Miss Helene!” - ASD Client Solutions Specialist, Sue Fritz, who has worked with Helene for over 16 years.
“The first time I met Ms. Helene, I was a very self-conscious 17-year-old who had just walked to her new job in the pouring rain. I was dripping wet, didn’t know what to do, and was on the verge of tears. Helene walked into the break room and immediately calmed me down. She has such a reassuring way about her—I don’t even know how to describe it. At my father’s funeral a couple years later, I can vividly remember the wave of comfort that washed over me the moment I saw her in the receiving line. I can remember how I gave myself permission to cry in that moment, because I knew a hug from Ms. Helene would help me pull myself back together. So much about that day was a fog, but that is one moment that has stuck with me for over a decade. I will always love Ms. Helene for being there for me that day. She is one of the most kind-hearted people I have ever known. I will so miss seeing her in the office as will everyone. She means so much to everyone here.” -ASD Public Relations Specialist, Jessica Farren, who has worked with Helene for more than 14 years.
"It has truly been a pleasure and a privilege to work with my good friend, Helene. We have worked side by side for much of my 14 years at ASD. She is the definition of a true friend. She is an inspiration to everyone she meets at ASD, and she has touched the lives of many families and funeral directors as well. Her ability to give 100% makes her a role model for others to look up to. She has a natural ability to soothe a grieving heart or offer kindness to those in need. Thank you for being a blessing to all of us, and I hope you enjoy your retirement." -ASD Public Relation Specialist, Rose Groover, who has worked with Helene for over 14 years.
"Fifteen years ago when my daughter was starting Kindergarten, I decided to go back to work part-time. I thought working 2nd shift at an Answering Service would allow me to ease back into the workforce. Taking messages for Funeral Homes after hours I was concerned I would be bored and wondered how I would pass the time. One of the first people I met was Helene. She was the most personable, friendly and of course the loudest voice in the room. Later that night she became my trainer they sat me with her and I listened in while she took calls. After just a few hours my head was spinning. She had a great soothing voice. She was professional and seemed to know exactly the right things to say. She was so invested in every call as if she knew every caller personally.She set the bar so high I knew immediately this was not the cushy job I thought it was. We became friends quickly. She reminded me so much of my mother (a younger version of course), that is why very early on I started to feel comfortable enough to tease her. To hear us talk to each other you would think we were family. She is like my feisty Aunt Helene who I will miss but retirement doesn’t change anything. Family is forever. Helene if you are reading this I still have that family heirloom I need to deliver to you so call me. Love you and I will see you soon."-ASD Operations Supervisor, Anne Hodgson, who has worked with Helene for more than 14 years.
“If it wasn’t for Helene, I wouldn’t be working for ASD. Helene was a bank customer where my friend’s mother worked. One day she was raving about how great it was to work for ASD. Helene gave her mother the number to ASD for her daughter. Her daughter contacted me immediately after she called in for an interview herself. She told me all about it and I called for an interview myself.” -ASD Technical Analyst, Kristine Soderland, who has worked with Helene for over 13 years.
“When I first started at ASD in 2006, Ms. Helene was one of the first people to welcome me so warmly to the ASD Family. Her genuineness just radiated off of her and you couldn’t help to be drawn to her sweet, generous, kind and fiesty spirit! When I had my son in 2009 I brought him into ASD for a visit. I took him to Ms. Helene and when she held him he just cuddled right into her neck and we both were in awe at how comfortable and cuddly he was with her! We still share this memory til this day! After that she was in love lol and would always ask about him and bring in little zip lock baggies of goodies just for him. We all recently were able to spend time together, my son is now 9 and to see how she lit up seeing him just warmed my heart. In this world, good genuine people are hard to find so I thank you Ms. Helene for being that shining gem, that positive influence and such a great friend. We love you!!!" -ASD Operations Supervisor, Margarita Santiago, who has worked with Helene for more than 12 years
"I have worked at ASD for 12 years and have seen many people come and go, but I was lucky to have met and worked with Ms. Helene. It was always a pleasure running into her in the mornings because you always started work in a positive way. I admire her cheerful spirit, friendly personality and dedication to the company. She was a great role model for me and I will truly miss her. Ms. Helene deserves the best retirement ever. Cherish every moment and enjoy each new day!"-ASD Training Specialist, Myrna Russi, who has worked with Helene for more than 12 years
“Helene is one of a kind. Her face lit up when she spoke to me about her school days with my aunt, Kathy Touhill. They attended West Catholic High School and hiked up their uniforms and shared funny adventures. She was one of the first to befriend me at ASD and made me feel so welcomed. Her devotion to church and work here were so strong and inspirational. I wish her well in beginning a much-needed retirement. Good luck and God bless!” -ASD Senior Call Specialist, Rosemary Touhill, who has worked with Helene for over 11 years.
"Ms. Helene , it has been a pleasure and an honor to work beside a true professional such as your self. Since I've known you, it has seemed to me at least that you bring out the best in everyone around you. Although it's sad to see you go, I do hope that you enjoy every second of your retirement and Godspeed! -ASD Senior Call Specialist, Lorenzo Bazan, who has worked with Helene for more than a decade.
"Helene has been a crucial part to my success at ASD. There were times that I didn’t think I was a good fit for ASD but Miss Helene made sure I knew that was not the case. She helped me through some rough times and celebrated the many successes in my nine years of working with her. I wish her nothing but happiness in her retirement!"-ASD Assistant Supervisor, Courtney Perry, who has worked with Helene for over nine years.
“I was hired for 2nd shift at ASD. However, I remember meeting Helene when I would pick up first shift hours. Helene made me feel so welcome when I sat next to her and was always willing to listen and talk this newbie through any issue. She had quite the impact on my first days here at ASD. Will miss her sunny disposition and warm smile. I will never forget how she brightened any day I was working first shift.” - ASD Assistant Supervisor, Teresa Kobylarz, who has worked with Helene for more than four years.
"Helene is so nice. I asked her to be my adopted Grandmom. She even went out of her way to come to my Dad's funeral. I'll never forget that. I love her. She's an amazing person."-ASD Training Specialist, Heather DiEgidio, who has worked with Helene for more than four years.
"Helene was the first smiling face I saw at ASD. She was so sweet and welcomed every new person with open arms. The first time I met her she stopped in her tracks and said, 'I know you, I know your face.' Helene had worked at ASD with my mom and Sue for a long time prior to my start. Helene is the sweetest, most caring woman. She is full of smiles and good vibes. We will miss her here in the office. Praying for many more happy days ahead for her."-ASD Operations Supervisor, Lauren Fisher, who has worked with Helene for over four years.
“I absolutely ADORE Helene. I first heard about her before I worked here in conversations with Renee (ASD Training Supervisor and Shannon’s cousin). Then, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting and occasionally working with her. When she calls you hun you feel like her family. I wish her nothing but the best retirement.” - Shannon Mowbray, ASD Client Solutions Specialist, who has worked with Helene for more than three years.
"Ms. Helene was there for me when I lost my great-grandfather, started nursing school, graduated nursing school, got married, had a child. She was so much more than just a co-worker. I left ASD in 2014 and still think about her almost daily. She’s comforted more than just the callers she was paid to- she took each and every co-worker under her angel wings and loved us as she would her own children. I’m so happy that she’s enjoying retirement even though I know she absolutely LOVED working at ASD." -Crystal Hallermeier, who worked with Helene at ASD from 2008-2014
As we celebrate Helene’s incredible career here at ASD and her much-deserved retirement, we are also missing her presence here in the office. Her absence will certainly be felt by all as there is no one else in the world who could ever match her. However, the enduring wisdom and lessons she imparted during her years here at ASD will remain with our staff. She taught all of us how important it is treat others with compassion and how a few kind words can mean so much to someone who needs to hear it.
Thank you for Helene for setting the example for all us over the past 21 years. It has been a true honor and privilege to work with you!
Your ASD Family
About The Author
Jess Fowler is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD's company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at Jess.Fowler@myASD.com