Don Hellar
(19 - 1998)

Robert Cowdery
Wichita, Kansas
No Picture 

On November 30, 1998 the Kansas Oil Industry and geological profession lost one of those rare individuals who was admired and liked by all and acknowledged to be one of the "true gentlemen" of the industry.  As Gus Messinger stated "Don was a man in the oil industry of whom I have never heard any disparaging remarks."  Perhaps some of the thoughts of those who knew Don well can be summed up by the phrase, he was a "class act."

Don was a native Kansan.  After arriving in Wichita in April 1920 he spent all of his childhood in Wichita and received his advanced education there.  He was very proud of the fact that although his mother was an immigrant with her parents from Germany, and his father was an immigrant from Austria there intent from the beginning was to be American.  German was never spoken in their home. 

Don Smith refers to his friend as being "generous but frugal."  Perhaps this was derived from his background or from "working his way through college" which was a necessity for Don.  He worked at a service station and at Cessna Aircraft while enrolled at Wichita University from 1938-42 and 1948-49.  During the interim period he was employed by several companies, but most particularly Schlumberger in several localities including Oklahoma City, Shawnee, and Wichita.  He returned to Wichita and found employment with Sohio where he was supervised and influenced by K.T. Woodman.  Don thought he taught him a lot about "how to find oil."

In 1942 Don married Gwen Dodson and they had two daughters.  Karen Wright and Kathy Probst both of whom reside in Wichita.  Don was a family man as Gus Messinger writes "he always thought about his family.  When you visited him at his office, he would proudly show you some little gift or candy that someone in his family had given him."

At Wichita University Don and Don Hoy Smith were part of a group of geology students later to achieve success in their profession.  These men include Bill Jacques, Warren Tomlinson, Leroy Riley, Ed Hutchinson, Wayne Walcher, Bob Armstrong, Ed Rehn, Tromer Smith, Elmo Kelly, Bob Gensch, Ray Goodin, Jim Morris, E.K. Edminston, Bob Watchous, and others.  After graduation in 1949, Don continued with Sohio and later joined Bay Petroleum.  When Bay merged with Tenneco he remained with the new company.  He was stationed for a period of time in North Texas.

The year 1958 saw the formation of Hellar Drilling in conjunction with Pierce Musgrove.  The company operated two drilling rigs until they were sold in 1973.  As Don Smith comments, "these were highly competitive times in the drilling business and oil prices were low, but Don made a go of it."  Gus indicates that this competitiveness carried over into card games and bowling "where Don hated to lose."

Don was an "oil finder" who might discuss some of the low times, but as Gus puts it "never boasted about his success as a petroleum geologist.  Although his discoveries were many, he was very humble about his abilities."

He was also a professional, serving on several committees of the Kansas Geological Society, He joined the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and in 1951 became an emeritus member.  He has also been an active member of the Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists.

An amusing comment on Don comes from Don Smith.  "Although Don undoubtedly could have afforded to eat each day at the Petroleum Club, he seemed to prefer to eat with a small group of older geologists at the Linoleum Club as we refer to the cafeteria on the mezzanine of what was then the Nations Bank Building."

Don will be greatly missed by his colleagues and host of friends in the oil industry.  A memorial has been established with the Endowment Fund, Department of Geology, Wichita State University.

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