NEW ORLEANS – “Pay me what you can,” that’s what the family of slain Gretna cab driver Blake Helmer said he would often tell his fares, Tuesday he was laid to rest one week after he was murdered while on the job.
Friends and family said Helmer was a devoted driver and a real asset to the community.
“I couldn’t ask for a better husband,” said Monique Boudoin, Helmer’s ex-wife. “Even after our divorce, he was always right there asking if I needed anything.”
Boudoin regaled the crowd at the funeral about Helmer and told them a secret that she had kept with her ex-husband, that they planned to re-marry.
The couple did not have children, but, she recalled a lasting friendship.
“He wouldn’t just buy a bouquet of flowers, he had to buy the whole bush so I’d have them all.”
Monique was one of the last people to speak to Helmer. He was supposed to be headed to her house at the end of his shift, but he was running late.
“He said, ‘I’m going to run a few more trips, the dispatcher needs help right now.’”
Kathy Bernard, the dispatcher, said she had no idea that the call she was sending her friend to was one that would end his life.
“I second guess myself all the time,” she said Tuesday. “What if I hadn’t given him that trip?”
Helmer picked up three teens that night and drove about a block and a half before they shot him several times from the back seat.
“He yelled in that mic,” said Bernard. “I hear that in my sleep. He yelled, ‘I’m shot, I’m shot.”
Blake died, leaving behind his big brother Kevin, who remembered him as a giving man.
“He was very, very generous,” he said. “If he saw a person who didn’t have much money, he wouldn’t charge them at all.”
That’s what his family said made the crime so senseless, saying he would have given the killers all he had.
Despite the heinous nature of the crime, his brother Kevin said he felt for the parents of the suspects.
“If they were good parents, they are victims too, you know,” he said. “They didn’t just hurt us. If they had parents, I’m sure they’re hurting too.”
One cabbie in attendance at the funeral said the drivers often feel invisible, as if they don’t matter. But, he said, Blake Helmer did matter to his fares, his friends, his family and the ex-wife, who was looking to have her second chance at life with him.
A memorial fund has been set up by the family. You can donate at any Capital One bank under the ‘Blake Helmer Memorial Fund.’