The family of Robert Earnest “Tug” Helmer is heartbroken to announce his passing on Tuesday, July 13 at his home in Highlands, North Carolina. He passed away peacefully in his sleep due to heart failure stemming from a childhood heart condition.
Tug was born in Atlanta, Georgia, graduated from The Lovett School, attended University of Mississippi and graduated from The American College in London, England with a business degree.
Tug was a true entrepreneur at heart and had an inherent drive for exploring new ideas. His eternal optimism and tenacity to identify new opportunities led him to explore many ventures over the years. While initially driven by the challenge of commerce, it was Tug’s love of people and passion of connection that was more fulfilling. When the opportunity to become a restauranteur in the town of Highlands, North Carolina, he opened Tug’s Proper. Tug’s friendly and outgoing nature served him well where he was constantly attending to patrons and meeting new customers. Tug never met a stranger.
While many people knew Tug’s outward persona as bold and effusive, people will remember him best for his selfless generosity. He was always there with a kind word, an “I’m proud of you,” and an infectious smile. Whether it be helping a friend move, cutting a neighbor’s grass, escorting a niece to a dance, or countless family gatherings, Tug was always present with his uplifting spirit.
Tug’s loving and generous nature extended not only to his family and ever- expanding circle of friends but to his dog, William. His big heart and compassion to adopt this 3-legged rescue became a significant part of his life. Both Tug and William were ever friendly and enthusiastic people lovers with William developing his own circle of friends and admirers that even surprised Tug at times.
A cornerstone of Tug’s life was his faith in Christ. His optimism was driven by knowing his Lord and Savior was with him everyday. The loss of Tug’s vibrant and loving spirit, his self- effacing sense of humor and his heartfelt generosity leaves an immeasurable void in so many lives. His circle of friends is vast and we know they all share our sorrow.
Tug is survived by his mother, Deborah Freisem Mast, father Robert E. Helmer Sr. (Beth, Ashley, Lauren) and sister, Sunny Thompson (Randal, Chase, Catherine “Minnie”), uncle George Freisem (Debbie), cousin Allen Freisem (Kim, Henry, Charlie, Sam), uncle Percy Helmer (Janice), cousin Trey Helmer (Joyce, Madeline) and cousin Tatum Helmer (Mark, Charlie, Ryan).
A Celebration of Life is scheduled on Sunday, July 25 from 1-3 p.m. at Tug’s Proper in Highlands, North Carolina.
A Memorial Service will take place on Thursday, July 29 from 4-5 p.m. at The Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, Georgia. Reception will follow in Child Hall.