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Man killed in Hobart garage fire remembered as ‘a gift’

Nicholas Helding | phocourtesy Naomi EpstePhotography

Nicholas Helding | photo courtesy Naomi Epstein Photography

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Updated: December 6, 2011 8:28AM



The family and friends of 23-year-old Nicholas Helding are mourning the death of the man his mother called “a beautiful human being.”

Helding died in a fire that engulfed his parents’ detached garage on South Wisconsin Street on Wednesday morning. The 2007 graduate of Hobart High School was pursuing his acting dreams in Chicago, including several appearances in the short-lived NBC series “The Playboy Club.”

“It’s a tough business,” his father David Helding said. “But his passion was acting.”

On Friday, the Lake County Coroner’s Office still listed Helding as a John Doe due to burns sustained in the fire. Investigators are consulting dental records to confirm his identity.

The family has tentatively scheduled visitation for Tuesday at Rees Funeral Home in Hobart, and a funeral service for Wednesday at St. Bridget’s Church.

Fire investigators haven’t determined the cause of the fire, but the Heldings believe that Nicholas may have fallen asleep while smoking and watching TV in the garage, which had been converted into a “man cave” with couches, rugs and sports memorabilia. It still contained some items that could have ignited, including a space heater, David Helding said.

David Helding said Nicholas’ 19-year-old brother, Kevin, last saw his brother in the garage around 6 a.m. before heading back to bed.

Nicholas Helding’s body was found inside the doorway to the garage, which led his parents to believe that he may have been overcome by the smoke before he could escape.

His parents described Nicholas as an easygoing and charismatic kid.

“He would walk into a room and just take it over,” David Helding said.

Nicholas Helding studied theater at Columbia College Chicago before taking acting and writing classes at Second City. He appeared in “The Nutcracker” and “Cinderella” with the Indiana Ballet Theater. He worked occasionally as a substitute teacher for the School City of Hobart.

He also had a passion for books, with science fiction books by Philip K. Dick and George R.R. Martin among his favorites.

His mother, Roxanne, said he worked hard to achieve his goals, from shedding weight as a teen to pursuing acting and writing as a career.

“He felt it was up to everyone to change their lives,” Roxanne Helding said. “He was just a gift and a joy for 23 years.”



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