Dateline: Burnt Hills, NY
Maynard LaVern “Vern” Hellijas of Burnt Hills passed away peacefully on Thursday, March 30, 2023, at his home, surrounded by his loving family. Vern was born on September 23, 1930, in Warnerville, NY and was the son of the late LaVern and Marietta Hellijas.
Vern graduated from the former Cobleskill High School in 1947, where he had been very involved in their various music programs including the band, orchestra, and chorus. Shortly after graduation, he was accepted into the U.S. Navy School of Music in Washington, D.C. He relished a very intense training until he was assigned to the 23-piece band, aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, the largest ship in the Navy at the time. While aboard the USS FDR, he enjoyed his deployment throughout the Mediterranean Sea, the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.
On December 31, 1948, Vern was exceptionally fortunate to be included in a group of sailors who would visit the Vatican City in Rome, Italy. During this visit, he received a personal blessing by Pope Pius XII, a blessing that would be cherished for a lifetime. From the USS FDR, Vern was transferred to the U.S. Navy Band Great Lakes in Illinois and remained there until his honorable discharge in November of 1951.
After his discharge, Vern embarked on a 33-year long career in newspaper advertising. During this time, he was employed by The Schenectady Union-Star, The Saratoga Springs Saratogian, The Coatesville PA Record, and The Glens Falls Post-Star. The final two, Vern notably obtained managerial positions.
After leaving the Navy, Vern was an active trumpet player in numerous musical quartettes, until later in life when he concentrated his musical efforts as the organist for 13 years at St. Joseph’s Church in Greenfield Center, and as the musical director of the Dorothy Welch Choral Society in Mechanicville. Nicknamed the “Poor Man’s Louis Armstrong,” Vern was also a Life Member of the Local #506 of the American Federation of Musicians and the director of the Ballston Spa Firemen’s Band.
In addition to his parents, Vern is preceded in death by his brother Dr. Carl Hellijas, his sisters Eunice Tingue and Virginia Brown, his former wives Edna Wood Hellijas and Fay Hellijas and his step-son, Alan Wood.
Vern is survived by his wife Claudette Hellijas of Burnt Hills, his three children, Kurt (JoAnne) Hellijas, Chris Hellijas and Carolyn Hellijas; his five step-children, Cindy (Paul) Moczydlowsky, Debbie Ross, Marc (Lisa) Contard, Chantal Couture, and Michele (Kevin) Zebrowski. He is also survived by many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren.
Relatives and friends are invited and may call on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, from 10:00-11:00am at Our Lady of Grace Church, 73 Midline Road, Ballston Lake, NY.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Father Marty Fisher at 11:00am.
Interment with military honors will conclude Vern’s services at 1:30pm at Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery, Schuylerville, NY.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Our Lady of Grace Church, 73 Midline Rd, Ballston Lake, NY 12019, or to the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 1357 New York, NY 10018.