Cover photo for Martin Helmke's Obituary
Martin Helmke Profile Photo
1941 Martin 2021

Martin Helmke

May 22, 1941 — January 30, 2021

Sacramento, California - Martin Frederick Helmke died at his home in Sacramento, aged 79. He passed gently, with Joan Frye Williams, his wife of 24 years, at his side and his favorite Beethoven late quartets playing in the background. Martin is also survived by his brother Ray Helmke (Gisela Schatz), son Michael Helmke (Chris Elwell), granddaughters Catherine and Elizabeth Helmke, and cousin Jean Brown.
Martin, a fifth generation Californian, was born in Berkeley and graduated from Berkeley High. He received his bachelor's degree in Economics from Sacramento State in 1963. In 2003 the University awarded him Alumni Honors in Economics in recognition of his service to the community.
He began his career in state service at the Board of Equalization, moved on to the Department of Finance, then found his true home in the California State Senate, where he worked for 31 years, first as Principal Economist at the Senate Office of Research, then as Chief Fiscal Economist and Chief Consultant to the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee. Serving under 11 different committee chairs during the terms of 7 governors, Martin was a brilliant analyst with an encyclopedic knowledge of tax law. He was also a consummate professional who helped to craft complex tax legislation without fear or favor, giving members of both parties and stakeholders on all sides of the issues the same thoughtful attention and respect. Following his retirement in 2007 he continued his public service as a member of the Little Hoover Commission.
Anyone who knew Martin will remember his quick wit and wicked sense of humor. He was a kind and generous soul, a recognized authority who wore his knowledge lightly, a lover of classical music who also liked cranking Queen up to 11, and a true devotee of puns, palindromes, limericks, Bob Dylan, Monty Python, and the Coen Brothers. But over the last 7 years Martin suffered the harsh physical and cognitive declines of Lewy Body Dementia. Special thanks go to Praveen Chandra and Patricia Carter, who joined Joan in caring for Martin at home. While his death is heartbreaking, it was also the peaceful end of a long and difficult journey.
Donations in Martin's memory may be made to the Chamber Music Society of Sacramento or Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, two organizations he supported as a volunteer and donor. A memorial celebration is being planned for his 80th birthday, in May. Rest in peace now, Martin. You will live in our hearts forever.

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