Martha Hilboldt, age 88, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, passed away peacefully on May 4, 2019, at Bronson Hospital, surrounded by her immediate family, as they sang "Amazing Grace" at her bedside. Born July 24, 1930, in Lebanon, Indiana to Thomas Loe and Winnie Mae (Ashley) Christian, Martha excelled in music and literature from an early age. In 1952, she earned a Bachelor of Science from Purdue University studying English and History and was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. In that same year, she entered the Miss Indiana Pageant, singing the "Habanera" from the opera Carmen. She won first runner-up and a substantial scholarship.
After college, Martha joined Northern Trust in Chicago where she met James (Jim) S. Hilboldt, who also worked for Northern Trust. They married on September 5, 1953, in Lebanon, Indiana and then relocated to Ann Arbor, where Martha taught English at Slauson Middle School while Jim earned his law degree at the University of Michigan. In 1956, they settled in Kalamazoo, where they celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in September of 2018.
A member of the First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo, Martha had a deep and abiding faith in her Lord and Savior, dedicating her life to the service of her family, friends, and community. In Kalamazoo, she sang with the Bach Festival Choir and the Thursday Morning Musicale. At the Hilboldt's lakefront home, she hosted visiting artists, musicians for the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, and other local events. On Christmas Eve, she delighted company with "O' Holy Night," accompanying herself on the piano.
Along with a gift for music, Martha was an accomplished athlete, enjoying tennis, golf, swimming, and skiing. She and Jim were skilled ice dancing partners and taught their children to skate. She served as a Certified Skating Judge for the United States Figure Skating Association.
Martha's service to her community included several terms on the Board of Directors of the Bronson Health Foundation, focused on quality and ethics, as well as being a long-standing member of the Board of Directors for the YMCA. Martha was a Sustaining Member of the Service Club/ Junior League of Kalamazoo, a lifetime member of the Purdue Alumni Association, a lifetime member of the University of Michigan Alumni Association, and past President of Chapter DI P.E.O. Sisterhood. She also worked as Coordinator for Continuing Education at Kalamazoo College.
Martha volunteered and supported many area organizations including Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Community Foundation, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Pretty Lake Vacation Camp, Western Michigan University, and Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo.
A lifelong learner and avid reader, Martha belonged to a local book club and the Every Friday Club. On weekends, she loved bird watching, walks on the beach, and building sandcastles with her grandchildren. She was unfailingly kind, gracious, and modest, more interested in others than in herself. Martha met life with a consistently optimistic outlook, rising early to embrace each day with joy.
Martha is survived by her husband Jim and her brother Robert T. Christian of Indianapolis, Indiana. Martha was preceded in death by her parents Thomas and Winnie Christian, her brother Charles W. Christian, and her step-mothers Nell Christian and Ruth Christian.
Martha cherished time with her ever expanding family, including four children: James Jr. (Wendy) of New Canaan, Connecticut, Katherine (Damian) Farrell of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Susanna (Jeff Hockensmith) of Chicago, Illinois, and Thomas (Warunee "Pum") of Hong Kong; her eight precious grandchildren: Emily (Ryan) Andersen, Amaron Curtis (fiancé Shannon Gerken), Molly (Mark) Lewallyn, Jonathan (Marianne) Curtis, Andrew (Kyla) Hilboldt, Brian (Taylor) Farrell, Renee "Kiki" Hilboldt, and Tate Thomas James Hilboldt; her nine great-grandchildren: Christian, Layla, James, Warren, Alesia, Lila, Patrick, Charles, and Noah, as well as many nieces and nephews.
A Celebration of Life service will be held on Wednesday, July 24, 2019, at 2:00 p.m. at Stetson Chapel on the Kalamazoo College campus following a private family inurnment in the columbarium at the First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in memory of Martha to Bronson Health Foundation, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo, or Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. Please visit Martha's online guest book to leave a condolence, personal message, or memory of Martha at www.langelands.com.