Dr. Jay D. Helsel

Educator and Author


Dr. Jay D. Helsel, 83, of Centerville, passed away Wednesday, January 8, 2020, in Mon Valley Care Center.

He was born October 2, 1936, in Portage, a son of the late Waldo E. and Mabel C. Bowser Helsel.

Jay was a 1954 graduate of Portage Area High School, Portage, and received his B.S. in industrial arts education from California State Teachers College (now California University of Pennsylvania) in 1959, his M.Ed. from Penn State University in 1964, and his Ed.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1977.

He taught two years in the industrial arts program at Portage Area Schools before joining the faculty at California State Teachers College in 1961. During his 35-year career at Cal U he served as a member of the teaching faculty, director of Campus Planning, vice president for Administrative Affairs, and department chairman, before his retirement in 1996.

Dr. Helsel was a highly regarded author for the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Cengage Learning and Nelson Education (Canada). Over a 50-year period, he authored or co-authored more than 75 publications including textbooks and ancillary publications in drafting and engineering drawing and design. His publications enjoyed an international market and several were translated into foreign languages. He also served as a consultant to a variety of development, manufacturing and distribution corporations throughout the country.

Dr. Helsel was highly skilled in woodworking, metalworking and in various other skill areas. In his spare time, he enjoyed working in his shop making high quality wood and metal products, most of which he gave to friends and relatives. In addition, he did extensive volunteer work for community and civic organizations using his various skills.

Dr. Helsel was the recipient of many awards including the Laureate Citation and Distinguished Service Award, Epsilon Pi Tau; the Norman Link Award, University of Pittsburgh; the Lillian M. Bassi Core Values Award, California University of Pennsylvania; Distinguished Faculty Award, Alumni Association, California University of Pennsylvania; Dixonians Award, The Foundation for California University of PA; the California University of Pennsylvania Outstanding Technology Education Alumnus Lifetime Achievement Award: dedication of Dr. Jay D. Helsel Computer-Aided Drafting and Design Laboratory; establishment of Dr. Jay D. Helsel Distinguished Service Award for the Technology Student Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania; Emeriti Faculty Award, California University of Pennsylvania. In 2005, a building (Helsel Hall) was named in his honor on the campus of Cal U.

Dr. Helsel believed strongly that those with skills have a responsibility to pass on that skill and knowledge to others, and in recent years he practiced that belief by working with his longtime friend, Donald Peroni and the Northern York County Historical and Preservation Society. Together they created projects for the Society’s summer Kids Camp whereby the children learned basic wood working, Tinsmith and coppersmith skills by making wooden whistles, cookie cutters, and punched tin candle sconces. Together they created many beautiful pewter pieces, wooden trays, candle snuffers and other craft object that were donated and sold in the society’s gift shop. However, the project they are most proud of is the six-foot wood and leather bellows that powers the forge in the wheelwright shop at Dill’s Tavern and Plantation, which the Society owns. The bellows is a working reproduction of an original found in a North Carolina blacksmith shop. It is used by the society’s blacksmith to make practical and artistic objects using the techniques of early American blacksmiths.

On May 7, 1960, he married Joan L. Kopnicky, who survives. Surviving, in addition to his loving wife of 59 years, are two children, Joy M. Helsel and Jeffrey D. Helsel of California. In addition, he is survived by two sisters, Esther Chernicky and Kathleen Smindak of Portage; a brother, Larry of Charleston, Ill.; and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents; a sister, Joann; and a brother, Ronald.

Friends will be received from 2 to 8 p.m. Monday, January 13, in MARISCOTTI FUNERAL HOME, INC., Anthony N. Mariscotti, supervisor, 323 Fourth Street, California, PA 15419. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m Tuesday, January 14, in the California United Methodist Church, with the Rev. Candace Cook officiating. Everyone is asked to meet directly at the church on Tuesday morning. Burial will be at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the J. Helsel Family Endowed Scholarship, The Foundation for California University of Pennsylvania, 250 University Avenue, California, PA 15419.

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