Wilbert Hemeyer

Obituary of Wilbert Hemeyer

Wilbert “Wil” Louis Hemeyer
January 29, 1922 – December 3, 2017

Wil Hemeyer of Beach Park was born to Louis and Lillian Hemeyer and grew to adulthood during the Great Depression on a farm in rural Gasconade County, Missouri.  Wil had the courage to leave the farm at age 16 to pursue a high school education in Owensville, Missouri.  He supported himself doing odd jobs, delivering newspapers, and setting type at the newspaper office.  Three months after the bombing at Pearl Harbor and while still in his senior year in high school he enlisted in the US Navy and within months was at sea on convoy duty in the Pacific theater of World War II.  He was selected for officer training and after being commissioned was assigned to duty aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Sicily in which he served for a year as assistant gunnery officer.  

After separation from active duty in the Navy, he continued in the reserves to complete twenty years of service.  While yet in active naval service, Wil married his high school sweetheart, Jeanne Wenkel who survives him.  This marriage of 71 years was blessed with three surviving children: James (Anna) Hemeyer of Midland, Michigan; Kathryn (Thomas) Miceli of Wadsworth, Illinois; and Cheryl (Walter) Tanner of Naperville, Illinois.  Also surviving are Wil’s beloved grandchildren Karen (Roger) Dastick, Debra (Mike) Brubaker, Linda (Bradley) Sprecher, Deanna (Tim) Osborn, and Phillip (Kelly) Tanner, and his great grandchildren Megan, Ethan, and Brendan Dastick, Jaclyn and Nathan Brubaker, and Anna and Weston Sprecher.  Wil was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Irene Koch, his half-brother, Melvin Hemeyer, and his infant son Steven.  He is also survived by numerous nephews, nieces, and cousins. 

Academically, Wil received an MA in History from the University of Illinois, Urbana, and thereafter taught for 34 years in Illinois high schools including 24 years at Waukegan High School.  He was an active promoter of teacher and education causes, serving for several years as president of the Lake County Federation of Teachers.  A highlight in Wil’s academic career was being selected to spend a sabbatical year (1960-61) as a John Hay Fellow for additional graduate study at Yale University, made more valuable as the family was allowed to accompany him for a year of residence in New England.  

Wil was an avid gardener, enjoying vegetables, flowers, bushes and trees.  After retirement in 1986, Wil became active in the Illinois Retired Teachers Association and its Lake County chapter, serving in various roles on the board of directors of both the state and local RTA.  Other service activities included being a volunteer driver for Elder Care, serving on the Northern Lake County CROP Walk committee and being the purchaser for the Free Meals program at First United Methodist Church, of which he was a member.  Wil was also an accomplished painter in oil and acrylic.  A landscape depicting autumn was chosen to hang in the Zion City Hall for a number of years.  He also loved sailing, often adventuring with his friend Ben, accompanied by some of his former students.  Wil also volunteered as an instructor for recreational sailing at the Great Lakes Naval Station.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held at First United Methodist Church, 128 North Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, Waukegan on Saturday December 9, at 11 AM.  A visitation will be held beginning at 10 AM.  Interment will be in North Shore Garden of Memories. Those planning an expression of sympathy are asked to consider the Northern Illinois Food Bank or the First United Methodist Free Meals Program.