Annual Middle Village fundraiser continues charitable work of late longtime resident

Middle Village fundraiser for longtime resident
Bernie Helldorfer and his dog. (Photo courtesy of Linda Helldorfer)

To honor her husband, who died of cancer six years ago, Middle Village resident Linda Helldorfer hosts an annual fundraiser, continuing the charitable work he did during his life.

On Saturday, Aug. 6, at 6 p.m., community members are invited to Christ the King High School for a night with music and a raffle. This year, Helldorfer will donate the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project. 

The Helldorfers both went to school at Christ the King but didn’t meet until Bernie Helldorfer graduated and was attending St. John’s. Helldorfer said she picked the Middle Village high school as a venue this year since it holds a special place in her heart. 

“My husband was later on the board of Christ the King. It has a lot of personal meaning for both me and my husband,” Helldorfer said. “We met very young. He was my first date and my first boyfriend — there was never anybody else.”

Bernie passed away in 2016 after battling colorectal cancer for two years. The couple met at a dance at the Gottscheer Hall in Ridgewood. The couple married in 1980 when Linda was only 22 and the pair spent their life together in Maspeth.

“I still miss him very much; he was only 61 when he passed,” Helldorfer said. “I wanted to somehow keep him alive. He’s always alive for me, but I wanted to keep his memory alive for everybody else.”

The fundraiser started as a private birthday party for Bernie back in 2017 for just family and friends. After that, Helldorfer had the idea to continue hosting birthday parties for Bernie, but selling tickets to donate proceeds to a charity of her choosing.

Helldorfer has held two events so far, donating to St. Jude and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). This year’s fundraiser will be the first year back after taking a break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“By doing this, I’m celebrating his birthday and making money for charity,” Helldorfer said. “He was the type of guy who loved to do service.”

Though Helldorfer said it is incredibly hard to host this event around the time of her husband’s birthday, she also said it is comforting to keep busy by doing activities related to his interests. 

“Even Relay For Life, we were both a part of that, and I’m still doing it in memory of him,” Helldorfer said. “With this event, I’m celebrating his life and I’m keeping busy doing an event that’s connected to him. By raising money for these charities, he is still doing something for people. It keeps me going.”

Bernie worked as in-house counsel for Mobil Oil Corporation before becoming a professor at St. John’s School of Law. The Middle Village served as the chair of the Division of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies at St. John’s, and founded the Mock Trial Team, coaching the students for over 25 years. He also had a private practice in Maspeth, specializing in elder law. 

Bernie and his wife were two of the original members of the Relay For Life of Middle Village. The couple also volunteered at Our Lady of Hope in Middle Village, where they ran the Pre-Cana program and Bernie was a Eucharistic minister.

“He loved to serve others,” Helldorfer said. “He really was just an amazing guy.”

Tickets to the event are $50 each. To register, call Helldorfer at 718-898-3222.