James Edward Hillbrant, 94, of Wamego, KS and formerly of Iola, KS passed away peacefully on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 at the Wamego City Hospital.
On February 27, 1923, James was born to Ephraim and Louella (Foley) Hillbrant in Iola, KS. James graduated from Iola High School in 1941 and attended Allen Community College and Kansas University. He was a Tech Sergeant in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II and was a part of the First Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. James was united in marriage with M. Lucille Kaufman on June 4, 1965 in Ft. Scott, KS. He often referred to his wife Lucille as the "sharpest woman I have ever met" and missed her greatly since her passing. She preceded him in death in 1997. He was also preceded in death by his brother Lester Hillbrant. James and his brothers owned and operated many businesses throughout his lifetime. He was the owner of Iola Engineering, making custom machinery, from the late 1970s until he retired in the mid-1990s.
James loved to read and travel. He regularly read 2-3 newspapers a day and several books a week. James was very generous with his library – bringing books to many friends and neighbors. He was also a gifted story teller and had a joke ready for any occasion. James' knowledge and wit made him interesting to talk to and he would strike up a conversation with about anyone. He liked to focus his conversations on family history, local geography, and politics. He was very civically-minded and even ran for local office once. His life time passion for genealogy grew substantially over the last 15 years. James researched and logged information daily on his family and that of his in-laws. He joked with his grandkids that the information he collected on their "pedigree" would cover the entire living room wall (it wasn't really a joke!). James was an avid traveler, often taking the side roads to get to his destination. He teased his kids stating that "you can't take the same way twice – you won't see any new country." His knowledge of Kansas history and geography was vast and even made him a little money during the war. He won several bets by being able to name all 105 counties in Kansas. James was a lifelong bird hunter, he loved hunting quail and pheasant until his knees would no longer allow. He frequently bragged about his bird dogs, Elmer (favorite), Toby, and Buster and their annual trips to Western Kansas and South Dakota. Throughout his life he also enjoyed playing pool, dancing, and listening to big band music. James was a member of the Elks Lodge and American Legion in Iola.
He is survived by four children: Diane Hillbrant, St. Paul, MN, Barbara Hillbrant (Bill Norris), Manhattan, KS, Stephen Hillbrant, Kansas City, MO, and Erica Christie (Rick), Wamego, KS; two brothers: Bill Hillbrant (Thelma) and John Hillbrant (Eileen), both of Iola, KS; eight grandchildren: Charlotte Costello, Torrence Head, Kelsi Head, Stephen Hillbrant II, Adam Hillbrant, Amanda Christie, Ashley Adams, and Jacob Christie; and five great-grandchildren: Brayden McCoy, Brentley McCoy, Colby Adams, Shailey Adams, and Fabian Ponce.
Memorial Services for James will be held at 10:00 AM, Saturday, May 13, 2017 at the Feuerborn Family Funeral Service Chapel, Iola, KS. The family will greet friends following the service. In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested memorials to Elks Lodge #569 in Iola, KS or the 3 Rivers Independent Living Programs. Condolences may be left at www.feuerbornfuneral.com.