Hellman Insurance Service changes hands

 After 43 years Dale Hellman sells business, as Watts Insurance prepares expansion to Terry office

    With nearly 43 years behind him, Dale Hellman, who began working in the insurance business August 1, 1971, says he’s ready for a change.

   “It’s just time,” Hellman said, emphasizing the point he’s selling his business … not retiring.

   Hellman, who has volunteered time and service in several Terry entities throughout the years, including the Terry Volunteer Fire Department, Prairie Benefits and Chamber of Commerce, among others, will continue to stay active in most of the organizations.

     He has also served as the Prairie County Coroner for 35 years, something he says he plans to continue.

   Hellman joined Clarke Insurance Service shortly after the agency bought the Walter Johnson Agency in Terry. He moved into the east end office of the Kempton Hotel, where the Terry office would remain for the next 19 years. In 1990 the office moved to its current 116 S. Logan Avenue location, in the smaller of the two buildings once occupied by Kaul’s Clothing.

     In 2006 Hellman, who had become part owner of Clarke Insurance, which included three locations — Terry, Miles City and Forsyth — sold his interest to Tom Clarke. He and wife Jaynee then began Hellman Insurance Service as full owners of the Terry location.

     “It’s been an interesting business,” Hellman said. Pointing to the changes made from going to carbon  paper copies to copy and fax machines to computers, Hellman expressed some amazement at the modifications he’s seen in the past 40-plus years in the speed and advancements made in processing claims and other details within the insurance business.

     He and his wife Jaynee, who works in the office of Terry Schools, will enjoy extra time with their grown daughters Heidi, Misti and Wendi and families, including 9 grandchildren.

     He mailed out letters to his customers this week, explaining the change in ownership.

    “It’s going to be business as usual,” Hellman said of the insurance service offered to his customers as he expects a smooth transition between Hellman Insurance Service and the new agents Ron, Ryan and Blayne Watts of Watts Insurance in Miles City.

    The new ownership will officially take place July 1. The new sign is expected to go up sometime this week.

    With well-established roots already in place in Terry, Ron Watts said he is looking forward to expanding their insurance service into a Terry location.

      “It’s very exciting for the Watts family to own and operate a business again in the town where we have several roots,” Ron said in an email to the Tribune. 

     Ron was born in Terry, graduating from Terry High School in 1972.  He worked on the family farm until 1983. He then began his employment at for Farmers Union Trading Company.  From 1985 to ‘88 Ron worked for the Montana Department of Natural Resources Water Rights Bureau.  He began his insurance career in 1988 selling life and health insurance for Montana Farmer Stockman.  In 1990 Ron became the Farmers Union agent in Miles City.

     Both of his sons, Ryan and Blayne, grew up and attended schools in Terry until 1989. Ryan, a 1997 graduate of Custer County District High School, has been working with his Dad in the insurance business since he was 15 — early duties included filing and taking pictures. In 2001 Ryan became a business partner and agent.

    Blayne recently turned in his resignation with Bobcat of Miles City and plans to attend insurance school the end of July as he joins Watts Insurance. After graduating in 1993 from CCDHS, Blayne joined the Marine Corps and served as an Avionics technician in Southern California and Iwakuni, Japan. He served his last tour in the Marine Corps as the Non Commissioned Officer In Charge of Recruiting Sub Station Billings, and canvasing recruiter for the Marine Corps in Eastern Montana through 2006, receiving an Honorable Discharge. Returning to Miles City, Blayne was employed with Riverside Marine & Cycle as manager and assistant manger before opening Bobcat of Miles City in 2012.

     The father and sons team say they are ready to begin work at the Terry location. Along with office manager Delite Dukart, one of the Watts’ will be in the Terry office most days.

     “(We’re looking) forward to continuing the excellent service that Dale has provided for the past 43 years,” Ron said.

Published June 25, 2014

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