Marg Helgenberger looks back at her childhood in North Bend with “lots and lots of fond memories.”
The star of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” is a fourth generation North Bender. Her maternal great-grandparents, Barbara and Frank Hare, lived in the Clyde area, northwest of North Bend. Maternal grandparents Fred and Thema Bolte farmed nine miles north of North Bend in the Webster area.
Marg’s paternal grandfather, LeRoy Helgenberger, moved to North Bend from Scribner in 1941 and opened Roy’s Produce on Main Street. He served on the North Bend City Council, as mayor and on the Dodge County Board of Supervisors. Marg’s father, Hugh, operated Roy’s Produce, was a USDA Meat Inspector and in 1975 opened North Bend Custom Meats. He served as president of the North Bend Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the elementary and high school boards of education. Marg’s mother, Kay, was the school nurse at North Bend Central High School for 16 years.
When Helgenberger was born, her parents were living at 220 W. Eighth St. Her earliest memories of North Bend include a flood that occurred when she was barely 2 years old.
When she was 10 years old, the family moved to 1210 Locust St., just west of the town pool.
“I was a big swimmer,” Helgenberger said. “I was on the swim team, worked as a life guard and gave swim lessons. One of my elementary friends was Ginny Widhelm, she was a great swimmer. I really admired her ability.”
Like many of those who attend high school in a small town, Helgenberger was involved in numerous activities. She tried sports; volleyball until she got pneumonia, track and basketball. And she regrets not sticking it out.
“I was president of the Pep Club,” Helgenberger said. “That was a thankless job. You didn’t get to watch the game — but had to man the snack stand.”
Helgenberger was involved in the fine arts, playing French horn in the marching and stage band (“I enjoyed that a lot.”) and sang in chorus and the swing choir.
Her earliest ambition was to be a nurse, enjoying her science classes, particularly those of Kathy Wilcoxen. But fate was to step in.
“My English teacher, Mrs. (Mariann) Von Rein, encouraged me to participate on the speech team, and somewhere along the way, I was, ‘bitten by the bug.’”
Helgenberger appeared in One Acts plays and was on the 1977 speech team that won the Class A District meet. (This was at the very beginning of state speech competition and there were only two classes; North Bend was in Class A with Omaha and Lincoln schools.)
The fun times of high school are memories that Helgenberger easily recalls — attending ball games, hanging out at the bowling alley, going to Lumir’s Bar for hamburgers.
“We made our own fun,” she said, remembering some of the silly things she and her friends did to amuse themselves.
The usual small-town jobs opened to teenagers filled Helgenberger’s summers: working in the bean fields when she was 13 and later in corn fields detasseling. When she was old enough, Helgenberger was a life guard at the North Bend pool. After graduating from North Bend Central High School in 1977, Helgenberger was able to get a job at the Schulyer packing plant, filling in for vacationing workers.
“It was hard work,” Helgenberger said. “It wasn’t something I wanted to do for a life time, but the money was good. I worked there for at least three summers and over Christmas break.”
Helgenberger’s mother, Kay Snyder of Omaha, remembers that her daughter worked at the Pack by day and did play practice at night, appearing in two different summer productions at Platte Community College in Columbus. She also did the weekend weather report at a television station in Kearney.
“One summer after work on Fridays at the Pack, she would take the bus to Kearney to do the TV weather report by 10 p.m.,” Snyder said. “She then took a late bus back to North Bend, arriving in time to return to work on Mondays at the Pack.”
All this hard work and her family’s example has impacted Helgenberger.
“I have a strong work ethic, that I take with me where ever I go. People respect that,” she said.
Compared to the grueling work Helgenberger did during her college years, work in the film industry doesn’t seem that hard.
“It’s not like cutting a blood clot out of meat,” she said. “I feel very fortunate to be doing what I am doing.”
A sense of service is also a trait Helgenberger saw in her family. She has followed their example by giving her time to causes she believes in. Her mother is a 26-year breast cancer survivor and Helgenberger has been involved with breast cancer awareness and fund raising for some time. In 1993 she was the keynote speaker at a cancer survivors’ day program in Fremont. The other cause she gives her time to is for neglected and abused children. She also is a regular contributor to the North Bend community and school foundations.
“Alan (Rosenberg, her husband) and I have hosted a celebrity golf tournament in Omaha,” Helgenberger said, “benefiting breast cancer research for seven years.”
Helgenberger retains her Nebraska-bred love of Cornhusker football, but not as closely as she used to.
“The last time I saw them was at the Rose Bowl four years ago, it was a terrible game. We did watch the Fiesta Bowl last year; they really played great there. But as a family we follow the Carolina Panthers.”
Helgenberger was filming a movie in North Carolina when the team was formed. It was her husband’s idea; to join the Nebraskan, New Jersey native and their son, the Californian, together to root for one team.
And what does Helgenberger consider her greatest accomplishment?
Her work as a parent.
Helgenberger and Rosenberg have a son, Hughie, 15. Hughie attended public school until high school and now attends a private school near their home in Santa Monica. She considers parenting hard work, a job that never stops and one that she has to stay on top of.
“My hope is for my son to have a happy, successful life, and I will have done my job.”
In looking back on her own upbringing, Helgenberger credits her parents and the community she grew up in for values instilled in her that has served her well in her lifetime. She remembers the openness of the land, and the freedom she felt.
“Freedom, independence, trust,” Helgenberger said. “These are all things I experienced growing up in North Bend. I can never lose sight of where I came from.”