Cover photo for James J. Hilgendorf's Obituary
James J. Hilgendorf Profile Photo
1948 James J. Hilgendorf 2024

James J. Hilgendorf

June 28, 1948 — May 9, 2024


Mr. James “Jim” Hilgendorf, 75, of Lewiston, Michigan died, surrounded by family, at Munson Healthcare Otsego Memorial Hospital in Gaylord on May 9, 2024. He was born on June 28, 1948, in Owosso, Michigan, to the late LaRue and Athlene (Seward) Hilgendorf. On January 1, 2000, he married his beautiful wife, Catherine (Colegate) Hilgendorf and together the two of them celebrated 24 years of marriage before his passing. Jim earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1970, Master of Arts Degree in Education in 1972, and an Educational Specialist Degree in 1991, all from Michigan State University. He worked as both a teacher and principal for Rapid River High School from 1972-1992, and was very active in the community, service organizations, and his church, Calvary Lutheran. During those years he also coached football, track, and basketball. Jim was Regional Football Coach of the Year (Class D) in 1977 and 1982.

He moved to Lewiston in 1992 and became very involved in the community. Jim was the superintendent of Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools for 20 years and retired in 2012. He was the assistant varsity football coach, recognized as Assistant Coach of the Year in 1997, and was inducted into the MHSAA Football Hall of Fame in 2005. He was also the voice you would hear over the radio announcing football and basketball games.

Jim was a member of the Lewiston Lions, the Masonic Temple, Shriners, Otsego County Planning Commission, Michigan Association of School Administrators, both the Otsego County and Lewiston Historical Societies, and he served as past administrator of the University Center in Gaylord. He served on the board for Otsego County Sportsplex, Otsego Memorial Hospital, and Gaylord Golf Club. He also served as a chairman on the board of trustees for the Congregational United Church of Christ in Lewiston.

Aside from his career in education and his extensive volunteer work, Jim loved history, golfing, euchre, poker, board games, and taking his grandchildren for rides on his tractor. He enjoyed fast pitch softball in his younger years and loved to tell stories and socialize. He was very proud of his children and grandchildren and supported them all through their endeavors. Jim is and will be deeply missed.

Jim is survived by his loving wife, Catherine Hilgendorf of Lewiston; children, Kim (Allan) Viau of Rapid River; James (Amanda) Lake of Gaylord; James (Marci) Hilgendorf of Elmira, New York; Mary Beth (Tom) Graebert of Okemos; Jeffery (Amy) Lake of Lewiston; grandchildren, Valerie, Alexandria (Austin), Sean, Owen, Burke, Cecilia, Archer, Mason, Collin, Addison; and sister, Janice (Mike) Smith of Onsted. He was preceded in death by his parents, LaRue and Athlene Hilgendorf.

Visitation will take place on Friday, May 17, 2024, from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at Lewiston Congregational Church. There will be a short visitation on Saturday, May 18, 2024, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at Johannesburg-Lewiston High School (JLHS) Auditorium, in Johannesburg, followed by funeral services, with Pastor Dave Engel officiating. Interment will take place following services at Albert Township Cemetery where Jim will be laid to rest.

lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the James J. Hilgendorf Memorial Fund of the Otsego Community Foundation online at or by mail to Otsego Community Foundation, PO Box 344, Gaylord, Michigan 49734 (please include James J. Hilgendorf Memorial Fund in the check memo line.) Funds will be used for the Calvary Church Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp,  scholarships for J-L high school graduates, or another service organization that was important to Jim.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James J. Hilgendorf, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, May 17, 2024

4:00 - 7:00 pm (Eastern time)

Lewiston Congregational United Church of Christ (Lewiston)

3191 Kneeland St, Lewiston, MI 49756

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Funeral Service

Saturday, May 18, 2024

10:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

Johannesburg Lewiston Area Schools

10854 M32, Johannesburg, MI 49751

Visitation from 10:00 AM until time of service at 11:00 AM

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Saturday, May 18, 2024

1:00 - 1:30 pm (Eastern time)

Albert Township Cemetery, Lewiston

Kneeland Street, Lewiston, MI 49756

Interment immediately following services.

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