William Arthur Hilligoss, age 91 years of Niles, Michigan; father, grandfather, brother, devout Catholic, honorable veteran and fast-pitch softball pitching MVP died peacefully at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15, 2023 at his home following a brief illness.
He was born on June 3, 1931 at home -- just as in death -- in Niles to Walter W. and Leitha L. (Lewke) Hilligoss and graduated from the old Niles Central High School. He was employed for two years at the former Silver Dome Company in Berrien Springs, Michigan before being inducted into the United States Army. He served most of his two-year tour-of-duty in the Korean Military Advisory Group in Korea, adding two bronze stars for activities earning Commendations over and above the standard Korean Service Ribbon. He was Honorably Discharged as a Veteran of the Korean Conflict, and completed his reserve obligation in 1960.
He returned to Niles and was employed by Leo Frizzo at the former Westside Super grocery store, working his way up to grocery manager. He later was employed at the former Niles plant of Tyler Refrigeration, again working his way up through the ranks to become a senior expeditor, serving many years before his retirement. He was a resident of Niles’ West Side all of his life.
Bill was a lifelong member of the Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish of Niles and was a member of the former American Legion Post #26 in Niles. As a young man, he played in the fast-pitch softball leagues for the team sponsored by Hamm’s Beer, becoming a star pitcher, posting many no-hitters and earning Most Valuable Player status. He was also a remarkable bowler at the former White’s Bowling Lanes on Eleventh Street and AA Timber Lanes Bowling on North Second Street, once carrying a three-game-average of 826 and was elected to the Bowling Hall of Fame in 2014.
He enjoyed traveling the country, especially with his family with favorite destinations including Las Vegas, Tunica, Mississippi and Florida. He liked to take part in games of chance at casinos and the occasional scratch-off ticket. His greatest joy, though, was family, having come from a large family and raising one of his own.
On June 18, 1955 at Saint Mary Catholic Church in Niles he married the love of his life, the former Bertha Eva Brown, with whom he celebrated a remarkable fifty-eighth wedding Anniversary prior to her death on February 1, 2014. He was also preceded in death by an infant great-grandchild, Korbin; his sons-in-law Randy Clanton and Willie McCraner; his parents and seven siblings, Pauline Worvey, Bobby Hilligoss, Juanita Fein, Paul F. “Fred” Hilligoss, Nadine DeForest, Theresa Millin and Mary Shearer.
Surviving family includes his children, William W. (& Susie) Hilligoss, Pam (& Craig) Krassow, and Vicki Clanton, all of Niles and Becky (& Lee) Yinger and Jackie McCraner, both of Florida; grandchildren, Penny (& Chris) Mullally, William “Bud” Hilligoss, Jason (& Emily) Krassow, Jessica (& Matt) Villa, Christopher (& Denise) Clanton, Melissa (& Jeff) Gunn, Jake Yinger and Ashley Hilligoss; great-grandchildren, Zachary, Kelsey, Carter, twins Austin and Brady, Nolan, Reagan, Kylie, Morgan, Eva and Alyssa; Bill’s brother, Leroy Hilligoss of Niles, and many nieces and nephews.
The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Bill Hilligoss at Noon on Thursday, March 23, 2023 at Saint Mary Catholic Church, 203 South Lincoln Avenue in Niles by the Rev. Christian Johnston, assisted by Deacon Roger Gregorski, both of Saint Mary’s Parish. Committal Rites will follow at Calvary Cemetery in Niles and will conclude with the Veteran’s Flag Presentation and “Taps” by the United States Army Honor Guard. The ceremony will be available online on the Halbritter-Wickens Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/halbritterwickensfuneralservices/ .
The family will receive relatives and friends at the church on Thursday from 11:00 a.m. until 11:50 a.m. Contributions in memory of Bill may be made to Saint Mary Catholic Church, 219 South State Street, Niles, Michigan, 49120, http://stmarysniles.org/ . Arrangements were completed at the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 East Main Street in Niles. Online condolences may be left at:
Bill clearly used his ninety-one years well, as a veteran and productive member of society, as an active and successful athlete, and as a faithful Catholic and family man, loving life, loving people and loving God.