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Helen mourns death of founding father

Sims was inspired by military stay in Bavaria

POSTED: August 14, 2012 12:23 a.m.

The city of Helen lost one of its founding fathers, Ray "Roy" Leonard Sims, on Friday.

Roy, as he was called by friends, will be remembered for his many contributions to Helen and making it the tourist attraction it is today.

“He was one of the people who really started the city of Helen,” said Chris Hammersen, owner of Hofbrauhaus Riverfront Restaurant in Helen and a longtime friend.

“He is one of the main five that really converted Helen into what it is today,” said Jeff Ash, city commissioner in Helen.

The five founders include Sims, Jim Wilkins, Bob Fowler, John Kollock and Pete Hodkinson.

Together, they came up with the concept to change Helen to an Alpine town modeled after the German state of Bavaria.

Before Helen became known as the Alpine Bavarian city it is today, it was a city that nobody really knew about.

“It was a lumber town that was going down and no work there,” Hammersen said about Helen before its transformation.

Sims had served in the military and was stationed in Bavaria.

This experience came in handy when the founders came together to renovate Helen.

“Roy Sims was in the military in Bavaria, and he remembered all of the buildings there,” Hammersen said.

Kollock came up with the designs of the buildings in Helen and made them in the style of the buildings in Bavaria.

Sims, who owned his own construction company, Ray L. Sims General Construction, took Kollock’s designs and built most of the buildings that are in Helen today.

According to Ash, on Jan. 13, 1969, Sims started the construction of Helen’s renovation.

Ash said that Sims “... was motivated through his excitement.”

Hammersen, originally from Germany, was asked by Sims to stay to help Helen in its transformation.

“He invited me to be a part of this city,” Hammersen said. “He is the one who built the Hofbrauhaus. He built most of the buildings there.”

“He was a builder and also owned several businesses and hotels here with his family,” Ash said.

He owned these businesses with his family through the late 1970s until the 1990s.

In addition to helping in the renovation of Helen with the founders and building most of Helen’s buildings, he helped in other areas and with other people whenever possible.

“He was the one who made the relationships between Helen and Fussen, Germany,” Hammersen said.

Fussen is a Bavarian city that Helen is modeled after. The city is still working with Helen today.

“He helped a lot of people behind the scenes,” Ash said of Sims’ willingness to help others.

It wasn’t long before people started coming to Helen to see the renovation.

“It was a lot of success in 1969,” Hammersen said of the renovation.

“A lot of tourists came up to see what they were doing.”

Besides being instrumental in the renovation, Sims served a total of 22 years as a city councilman and mayor of Helen.

“He was serving actively in the 1960s and ’70s as councilman and as mayor in the late ’70s,” Ash said.


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