Cover photo for James S. Hilboldt's Obituary
James S. Hilboldt Profile Photo
1929 James 2023

James S. Hilboldt

July 21, 1929 — March 21, 2023


James (Jim) S. Hilboldt, age 93, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, passed away peacefully on March 21, 2023, at his home, surrounded by his four children. Jim was born on July 21, 1929, to Grover Cleveland Hilboldt and Grace Evelyn (Sonnemann) Hilboldt and raised in Vandalia, Illinois. Jim joined the United States Marine Corps at the age of 17, training and serving in Parris Island, South Carolina.

After rising to the rank of sergeant during his two years of active duty, Jim enrolled in Harvard University. While at Harvard, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and the U.S. Air Force ROTC; after graduating he was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. Jim made life-long friends at the university, was a member of the Hasty Pudding Club and the Owl Club, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics in 1952.

The recent graduate joined Northern Trust in Chicago where he met Martha Mae Christian who also worked for Northern Trust. They married on September 5, 1953, in Lebanon, Indiana and then relocated to Ann Arbor, where Jim earned his law degree at the University of Michigan Law School, while Martha taught English at Slauson Middle School. In 1956, they settled in Kalamazoo, and Jim joined The Connable Office.

Jim was with The Connable Office for over 60 years, serving as the Chairman of the Board in the later years. Throughout his time there, he helped manage the personal and financial affairs of generations of clients with compassion and dedication. He served on many corporate boards, including The American National Bank and Trust Company of Michigan, Kalamazoo Sled Company, Lafourche Realty Company, Inc., Kalsec, Inc., Hayes-Albion Corporation and Meijer, Inc.

In the early 1980’s and for many years thereafter, Jim’s principal civic activity was with the Downtown Development Authority, which was charged with revitalizing downtown Kalamazoo. To support this effort, he helped form Downtown Tomorrow, Inc. The same zeal to foster local economic growth and community projects like the Kalamazoo Valley Museum spurred him to be equally active in later years in organizations with a broader mandate such as the Center for Michigan, Inc.

Shortly after their move to Kalamazoo, Jim and Martha joined the First United Methodist Church. He held board and other leadership positions at Kalamazoo Civic Players, Kalamazoo Figure Skating Club, Junior Development Tennis Program and the Chamber Music Society of Kalamazoo, Inc.

Jim was a devoted husband to Martha (with whom he celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in 2018) and loving father to their four children and their progeny. But like Martha, Jim believed the calling to encourage and guide and lift up others extended well beyond the immediate family. He was always available to discuss challenges and decisions faced by family members and friends and readily offered advice.

Jim was a life-long learner and believer in the power of education. He also enjoyed activities such as tennis with the “Friday Evening” group, ice dancing with Martha, platform tennis, and swimming. He advocated for a healthy lifestyle, both in diet and exercise, always stressing the value of moderation.

Jim was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Jane (Hilboldt) Gushue, his brother Charles Hilboldt, and his beloved wife Martha.

Jim’s cherished and ever-expanding family includes his four children, who loved him dearly: James Jr. (Wendy) Hilboldt of New Canaan, Connecticut, Katherine (and her late husband Damian) Farrell of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Susanna (Jeff Hockensmith) Hilboldt of Chicago, Illinois, and Thomas (Warunee “Pum”) Hilboldt of Hong Kong; his eight precious grandchildren: Emily (Ryan) Andersen, Amaron (Shannon) Gerken, Molly (Mark) Lewallyn, Jonathan (Marianne) Curtis, Andrew (Kyla) Hilboldt, Brian (Taylor) Farrell, Renée “Kiki” Hilboldt, Tate Hilboldt; his 14 great-grandchildren: Christian, Layla, James, Warren, Alesia, Lila, Patrick, Charles, Noah, Caden, Ethan, Isabelle, Graham, and Rory, as well as many beloved nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Jim’s life will be held on Thursday, March 30, 2023, at 2:30 pm at the First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo following a private family inurnment in the columbarium.  A reception at the Kalamazoo Country Club will follow the service. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the following organizations:

Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS)

Washington Make a Difference Fund at Kalamazoo Valley Community College Foundation

Centrica Care

Washtenaw Community College Martha Christian Hilboldt Scholarship

Please visit Jim’s online guest book to leave a condolence, personal message, or memory of Jim at .

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

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Starts at 2:30 pm (Eastern time)

Kalamazoo First United Methodist Church

212 South Park Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Thursday, March 30, 2023

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Private Inurnment

Kalamazoo First United Methodist Church

212 South Park Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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