Former councilwoman, mayor's assistant dedicated her life to York City

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

The woman who ran York City Hall with “a heart of gold” from 1994 to 2002 will be missed by her family, friends and the entire York community, according to her former city colleagues.

Helen Rohrbaugh died Monday at the age of 81.

Former York City Councilwoman Helen Rohrbaugh

Born in 1934, Rohrbaugh graduated from William Penn Senior High in 1952 as an award-winning vocalist. Years later, Rohrbaugh became an active member of the Memorial United Church of Christ — now Trinity United Church of Christ — and held leadership roles in various parent-teacher organizations in York City, picking up a lifetime membership award from the Pennsylvania PTA.

Rohrbaugh served on the York City school board for 10 years, beginning in 1973 and including five years as president of the board, before starting a career in city government that lasted almost two decades.

Rohrbaugh took a seat on the York City Council in 1986 and served for eight years until joining former Mayor Charlie Robertson’s administration in 1994. Rohrbaugh served under Robertson until 2002, when she joined the Department of Community Development under Mayor John Brenner.

Former colleagues in York City Hall said they will long remember Rohrbaugh’s decades of community service and her love for York.

“She loved our community. She loved our city,” Brenner said. “She was always a very positive breath of fresh air at City Hall.”

The "rock" of City Hall: Brenner said he remembers Rohrbaugh as a community-oriented and good-hearted person who “was really the rock in the mayor’s office” under Robertson.

Rohrbaugh “was always good at giving advice,” whether that was to the police chief or a janitor, Brenner said, and she was never afraid to do what had to be done to accomplish something for city residents.

“It didn’t matter who it was; she wasn’t afraid to tell somebody, ‘Hey, this needs to get done, and you need to go do it.’ She was the kind of person who made sure things got done,” Brenner said. “That’s exactly what you want in a city. You want people like that that love the city, that are willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved.”

Missed by all: Toni Smith, who became a York City councilwoman after Rohrbaugh left to join Robertson’s administration, said Rohrbaugh was a good mother, good grandmother and good citizen who always helped her community through hard times.

“She gave quite a bit of her life, her time, to the city,” Smith said. “The city, the church, everything that has to do with community, she was there. If you needed her, she was there.”

Rohrbaugh was a very private person and an intelligent, wonderful writer when she wasn’t busy helping her neighbors, Smith said.

From delivering Thanksgiving turkeys to neighbors to helping people get to church and sitting on the boards of various local organizations and schools, Rohrbaugh was constantly helping to improve her community, Smith said.

“I wish every citizen would be like her,” Smith said. “We would have a better world right now. She always seemed to care for others more than she cared for herself.”

A memorial service for Rohrbaugh is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, at Trinity United Church of Christ, 32 W. Market St., York, with her pastor, the Rev. Larry D. Covin, officiating. A visitation with the family will immediately follow the services. Private burial will be in Prospect Hill Cemetery.