Bernard T. Hilgers, age 98.9, of Wahpeton, ND, and more recently Fargo, ND, died Friday, November 25, 2016, under loving care at Villa Maria, surrounded by family.
Bernard's funeral service will be held at 11:00 am on Friday, December 2, 2016 at St. John's Catholic Church, Wahpeton, with Rev. Dale Lagodinski officiating. Visitation will be from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm, with a 7:00 pm prayer service at Vertin-Munson Funeral Home, Wahpeton, on Thursday, December 1, 2016 and also one hour prior to the service at the church. Burial will be at Calvary Cemetery, Wahpeton, with military honors conducted by the North Dakota Funeral Honors Team and the Wahpeton American Legion. Arrangements have been entrusted to Vertin-Munson Funeral Home, Wahpeton.
Bernard (B.T., Barney) was born on February 3, 1918, at Barnesville, MN, the son of Francis and Theresa (Kieselbach) Hilgers. Bernard was the oldest brother in his family of ten. He was raised on the family farm where he cared for animals, worked and harvested the fields. Bernard worked extremely hard and helped financially support his parents and siblings with a never-give-up attitude. Bernard was a very talented musician, self-taught on the trumpet. He graduated in 1939 from Barnesville High School. Further education included NDSCS and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Vocational Education from the University of Wisconsin, Stout.
He proudly served his country in WWII in the Army Air Force as an airplane mechanic, working mainly on the P-38 fighter airplanes, and was stationed in the Aleutian Islands. He was honorably discharged on October 7, 1945, with the rank of Tech Sergeant.
Barney met his wife Millie (McGregor) while in the service in the state of Washington. She was in the military as a Women's Army Corps (WAAC) member, and a mutual army couple introduced them. She thought they would make a great couple as they were both from the Midwest. When Millie met Bernard, she said, "Oh, you are from Barnesville. I'll call you Barney from Barnesville." The rest was history, as they say, and they were married just three short months later for 63 wonderful years. Barney and Millie were fantastic dancers and won their wedding photo as a prize. They continued dancing throughout their lives.
Barney referred to their wedding ceremony on the army base as an international wedding. Hilgers is German, Millie was Irish, her attendant was Russian, Barney's attendant was Irish, and the Commander who gave Millie away was Jewish. To top it off, the officiating priest was from France. Barney and Millie enjoyed several military reunions through the years with his 54th Fighter Squadron comrades.
Barney and MiIlie lived in Wahpeton, ND for 60 years where they raised their family. He was a Welding and Machine Tool & Die instructor and a Career Coordinator at NDSCS for 40 years. He was a dedicated teacher who earned the respect of both his students and colleagues. Barney symbolized what NDSCS was all about. The time he put toward the students he worked with was incredible. There are very few places traveled in North Dakota where someone still doesn't ask about Barney Hilgers. All six of his children, and a son-in-law and daughter-in law, attended NDSCS.
In 1978, Barney received the distinction from the United Sioux Tribes in recognition of his work with the BIA at the college, and earned the title "Three Feathers." He cherished this honor as he really was three-in-one: a teacher, a counselor, and a friend. He was the NDSCS Grand Marshal in the Homecoming parade in 1994. He loved Science School and the motto, "Learn by Doing".
Barney was an active member of St John's Catholic Church, Wahpeton ND, Knights of Columbus, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Charter member of the Elks, a life member of the NDSCS Alumni Association, a volunteer fireman, and a member of many educational associations and committees. He served on the St. John's School Board and was a member of Sts. Anne & Joachim Church, Fargo, ND.
Barney was one of the heroes selected for the first Honor Flight in 2007 to view the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC. An honor he treasured.
Barney was a dedicated husband to his wife, Millie. After retirement in 1983, he and Millie enjoyed traveling during the summer months to flea market in the Detroit Lakes area. Barney loved visiting his children's homes, seeing his grandchildren, great grandchildren – family came first with him.
He was preceded in death by his wife Millie, his parents, his grandparents, brothers Robert, Wally, and Jerome, sisters Francis Swanson, Margaret Fritzke, Coletta Christianson and Ellen Peterson and son-in-law, Dave Larson.
Barney is survived by his six children: Katherine Larson, children: Bryan (Kim) Larson, Alec, Evan, Finn & Miles; Faribault, MN, Amy (Kevin Baas), Braiden, Gavin, Mason, Prior Lake, MN; Daniel Hilgers (Anita), Dexter, IA, children: Kim James (Frank), Toronto, SD, son Brandon; Michelle (Bill Hinrichs), Indianola, IA, sons: Teagan and JT; Patti Haberman (Chuck), Apple Valley, MN, children: Lindsey Hamilton (Andy), Leah, Ellie, AJ and Evan, Lakeville, MN; Rachel Matsch (Neil) and Neil, Apple Valley, MN: Mike Haberman & Kelly, Ulyesses, Arlo, Baxter, MN; Mike Hilgers (Kim) Phoenix, AZ, David, St. Louis, MO; Brian Hilgers (Becky) Manhattan Beach, CA, child: Brielle; Sheila Beauchene (Mark), Travis Beauchene (Brittany) child: Millie, Rochert, MN, Brad Beauchene, St. Paul, MN. His sisters, Beverly Bales, Lake Carlos, MN, and Glenora Schlinder, Barnesville, MN. Two sisters-in-law, Marjorie Sweeney, Grand Forks, ND and Evelyn Harrison, Soap Lake, Washington, and many nieces and nephews.
Barney resided at CHI Riverview for five years and truly enjoyed the staff and residents—especially his supper buddies! He never missed mass, a musical event or bingo. Even though he was only at Villa Maria for a short time, all of the staff cared for him deeply. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
We will miss you and love you forever, Dad, B.T., Grandpa, and Great Papa.
Vertin-Munson Funeral Home
224 6th St. N
Wahpeton, ND 58075
Thursday, December 1, 2016
4:00 PM - 7:00 PM
St. John's Catholic Church
115 2nd Street North
Wahpeton, ND 58075
Friday, December 2, 2016
Friday, December 2, 2016