BY MIKE McCARTHY | MIRROR EDITOR — On rare occasions, we are blessed with meeting someone whose subsequent friendship enriches our lives in too many ways to count. These friends add so much incalculable value to our lives that it is particularly sad when we lose them.
For many in Maumee, Jack Hiles was one of those people. He was a warm, kind, humble and giving person who had a great sense of humor, a sharp wit and a lifelong passion for accumulating a dazzling array of Maumee historical artifacts and then sharing them with everyone in the community.
John “Jack” Wesley Hiles Jr. passed away on Mach 27 at the age of 73 in McLaren St. Luke’s Hospital after a series of serious health setbacks that began when he contracted the coronavirus in November 2020. Many in the community were stunned by the news of his passing.
Jack’s passion for Maumee’s rich history, and his joy in sharing, reminiscing and educating residents about the city’s interesting past, made him a particularly appealing and likeable person for people of all ages. It was both a fun and educational experience to have a talk with Jack.
Jack’s interest in local history was sparked when he was just 8 years old. His father had presented him with a gift of a canvas money pouch from State Home Savings in uptown Maumee, and Jack loved it.
“That was the first thing he handed me,” said Jack in a 2003 interview in The Mirror. “I still have that bag.”
In over six decades of collecting historical artifacts since that fateful day, Jack acquired so many Maumee-related items – 10,000 and counting – that he literally had to create a museum in which to store them.
The Maumee Memora-bilia Museum will serve as a lasting testament to Jack’s love of Maumee’s history and its residents. Modestly perched on the grounds of the Wolcott Heritage Center complex at 10135 River Rd., the museum is nestled inside a small wooden frame building bursting at the seams with thousands of Maumee artifacts.
These items had been lovingly collected and curated by Jack for all of his adult life, and Jack accumulated them at such a rapid pace that storing them safely became a challenge. Jack’s daughter, Laura Logan, explained that Jack and his wife, Gloria, had converted a two-and-a-half car garage at their house on Cambridge Park East into a family room in 1998, and that is where Jack stored his ever-growing collection for several years.
Alas, even that room wasn’t large enough to contain the enormous collection, Laura said. “It was creeping out into the rest of the house,” she laughed.
A couple of years before Jack and Gloria moved out of their house and into a condo, Jack decided that it was a good time to donate his entire collection to the Maumee Valley Historical Society and, subsequently, to the city of Maumee, with the condition that the collection be properly maintained for the education and enjoyment of generations to come.
“The collection will stay with the city,” Jack said in the 2003 interview with The Mirror. “It will be their responsibility to do something with it. It’s a city collection.”
Jack and his fellow Maumee historical enthusiasts would often meet at the museum on Wednesdays in recent years to work on cataloging and maintaining the artifacts while sharing good stories and plenty of laughs.
Jack was a great storyteller and had a tremendous sense of humor. He loved people and he was generous with his time and his great knowledge of local history. He would gladly answer any question he could about Maumee history. If he didn’t know the answer right away – which was quite rare – he would do some research on the subject and get back to you.
Jack was also quite a cook, according to family members and friends. His specialties were bean soup and pork barbecue.
Jack attended St. Joseph Catholic School as a child and graduated from Maumee High School in 1968.
Professionally, Jack started working as a bagger at the nearby Food Town store while he was a teenager. Later, Jack attended the National School of Meat Cutting in downtown Toledo. With his new skill set as a butcher, Jack found employment at Food Town as a meat cutter for the first 12 years of his career.
His pleasant demeanor and exemplary work ethic resulted in his promotion to store manager, and he served in that capacity for the next 22 years. There are many stories about Jack’s kindness and generosity shared by his former employees and customers.
When Jack retired from Food Town in 2002, he became a district representative with Modern Woodmen of America, an insurance provider. The new position and flexible hours enabled Jack to spend more time with his family and maintain his many friendships.
Jack would occasionally display his collection of Maumee history at various public events held in conjunction with the Wolcott House Museum, Maumee Senior Center and the Maumee Chamber of Commerce.
For many years, Jack would also set up displays for the enjoyment of people who attended the annual St. Joseph Catholic Church First Communion breakfasts that were held at the church each spring.
For his generous contributions to the community, Jack was honored by the Maumee Chamber of Commerce with a Maumee Hometown Hero Award in 2002.
In 2018, Jack was presented with the Maumee High School Distinguished Alumnus Award in recognition of his significant contributions and achievements in the community in his years since graduating from MHS.
Above all else, Jack loved his family.
Jack is survived by his wife, Gloria; daughter, Laura (Denis) Logan; son, John (Tania) Wesley Hiles III; grandchildren, Denis Logan, Dylan Logan, Valerie Fenimore and John Wesley Hiles IV; sister, Char (Leonard) Nesper; friend and ex-wife, Hope (Chris) Hasselkus; sisters-in-law, Sue Hiles and Vicky Studier; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Preceding Jack in death was stepson Raymond Cassidy.
As a memorial keepsake for Jack’s family and for the Maumee community at large, The Mirror asked Maumee residents to share their memories about Jack Hiles.
Those memorial tributes can be found below these photos.
Maumee Remembers Jack Hiles As A Kind And Giving Gentleman
I don’t think anyone can say enough good things about Jack Hiles. He was truly one of the kindest and most decent men I’ve known.
His knowledge and love of Maumee history is unparalleled in the community. He thrived on it and was always eager to share. I loved hearing his stories. I think he had a story for every item in the Maumee Memorabilia Museum, which number in the thousands.
Whenever I think of anything Maumee history, I’ll think of Jack first and all that I learned from him. While we were looking at photographs one day, he said, “I don’t just look at the picture, I look for what else is in the picture.” So true! This is such a huge loss for Maumee and everyone who’s known Jack.
Jack Hiles was one of the most genuinely kind people I have ever known and his love for his community and his knowledge about local history was unsurpassed. It was always a pleasure to talk to him and reminisce about Maumee. He will be greatly missed!
I will forever be grateful for having known Jack. He was such a kind-hearted soul who gave of himself so freely. He could always be counted on for a kind word or a joke. Especially a joke. The way he loved Maumee was so inspiring. I used to tell him I wanted him to write a book because it seemed like he knew everything about Maumee. I hope we will be able to carry on at the Maumee Memorabilia Museum what he started and loved so much.
Jack was a friend, colleague and inspiration to me. His sense of humor was such that he always left us laughing in the Modern Woodmen of America office. I admired Jack’s passion for Maumee and the memorabilia he collected. His dedication to the Wolcott Complex and the entirety of the Maumee Valley Historical Society is unparalleled. I shall never forget his contributions to Maumee and its history.
First let me say that I never met Jack in person but had many conversations with him online. Through these conversations, his love for Maumee immediately became obvious. His encyclopedic knowledge of Maumee history inspired me to dig deeper into some of the less important aspects of daily life in Maumee, particularly during the 19th century. Jack’s presence in Maumee will be sorely missed, but what a wonderful body of work he has left for the rest of us to learn from and enjoy. Thank you, Jack.
Ft. Wayne, Indiana
(former Maumee resident)
I’ve known Jack for some 30 years, and in my 70-plus years I’ve met few with the genuineness of Jack.
Jack was always so generous with his time, especially if it had anything to do with his beloved Maumee. Whenever I came to town, we would always meet at the Maumee Memorabilia Museum and Jack always had something new to show me. If you had a question about Maumee, chances were, Jack had the answer. And if he didn’t, he certainly would have it the next time you met.
Even though we were about the same age, he always seemed like the wise old town elder. You know, the type you’d find in the town square telling stories and answering everyone’s questions. The problem with this picture was he was way too young-looking for the part. And now, just as he was beginning to look the part, he has been taken from us.
Happy trails, Jack.
Mark D. Raab
(former Maumee resident)
I first met Jack Hiles when I wanted to start community gardens and thought the Wolcott House grounds would be a great place to do so. I remember the conversation being pretty short, with Jack smiling and saying sure. It felt like he had the city out there, and the five raised beds were complete in a matter of a couple weeks, at most one month. I’m sure there was a bit more to it than that, but Jack never made it seem complicated nor did any suggestion or idea that you shared seem unrealistic for him.
He was such a cheery and nice guy who wanted to do as much as he could for his community. He was open to native plants, gardens and farmers’ markets. He was always up for providing information about Maumee’s history and sharing the pictures and memorabilia at the Maumee chamber or our Maumee Garden Club meetings. He even gave me some old publications he had on “Vegetable Gardening in Wartime,” “ABC of Victory Gardens: Backyard Farming Made Easy For All” and Ferry’s Home Garden Guide. He gave me my very own tour of the Wolcott House and contributed so much to my life by having the opportunity to have known him.
Maumee lost a valuable resource and active citizen. I know I will miss him and I’m sorry he had to leave this life so soon.
For those of who didn’t know (or have forgotten), Jack Hiles was my best friend in high school. We, along with Lee Gwin (RIP), had many great times during our high school years. Even though Jack didn’t play organized sports, he was a good athlete. We played lots of sandlot football along with intramural football and basketball.
We remained friends after high school. I was best man at his wedding to Hope, and he was in my wedding as well. As things went, we lost contact over the years. I hadn’t seen Jack in many years but heard of his many exploits over the years. He was a great friend and will be missed very much.
(former Maumee resident)
After he is dead and gone, let us ever remember the quiet, simple man who left acts of kindness in his wake; including our own history to bear witness of who, what and where we came from.
Jack Hiles was my cousin for 72 years, despite the fact that, whenever in public, he chastised me for being his older cousin! That was Jack. I loved him like a brother.
From early childhood, his bicycle transported him to Maumee Little League baseball at the Ford Street playground, to neighborhood stops like Bob’s Marathon for a pop, and eventually to a grocery bagging job at our local Food Town. He was loyal to them for many years. To support his own family, he went to trade school and became an excellent butcher. His innate ability in business and his love of all of his customers moved him up the career path and kept that store location a moneymaker. One day, it all changed.
Jack was the Comeback Kid! While he was executive director and groundskeeper (right alongside his wife, Gloria) for the entire Wolcott House compound, he re-invented himself as an insurance agent. He helped many friends, family and Food Town past employees to get back on their feet financially.
Jack will be remembered by many for small, large and personal deeds. He never needed compensation, parades or recognition. In the near future, I, for one, would like to see his Maumee Memorabilia Museum at the Wolcott House Museum Complex be renamed in his honor.
I will fondly remember Jack’s kindness, love of history and hard work at the Wolcott House Museum Complex. My dad, Don, worked alongside Jack for years, fixing up and keeping all the Wolcott buildings in great shape. Together, they remodeled the Monclova Community Church and beautifully restored the Box Schoolhouse, as well as making repairs to all the other buildings. My dad was always willing to help Jack with whatever task was needed – repair a fence, clean out the barn, work the sale – it was a joy to help him out.
Jack also thoughtfully delivered quarts of delicious homemade bean soup during the cold winter months to my parents, and it was always so good. Lastly, I want to acknowledge Jack’s willingness to share his Maumee history and memorabilia with the St. Joseph Golden First Communion each year. His display was very popular with the former students and so appreciated.
Thank you, Jack. You left us with fond memories and so much amazing Maumee history.
Daphne L. Bauerschmidt
Jack Hiles dedicated many, many years to the collecting of photographs, memorabilia, articles and much more to preserve the history of our city. He willingly shared his efforts with our community, never asking anything in return. Jack just truly loved Maumee and committed much of his life to making sure future generations could look at the exhibits he created to better understand our history.
Many years from now, those that follow us living in Maumee will certainly appreciate the efforts of Jack.
Mayor Richard Carr
I met Jack at Food Town when he was manager. What great man. He would meet Mark’s mom in the parking lot with a shopping cart to guide her into the store. She walked with a cane, and he was there for her.
I met Jack many years ago when he joined the Corvette Club. Talking with Jack, you could tell he had a true passion for Maumee. I was not reluctant to share my memories of “old Maumee” from many great stories shared to me by my dad, while Jack listened with a genuine interest about the community we called home.
Jack was among the true historians when it came to Maumee and was always willing to share his knowledge with others.
My sincere condolences to Jack’s family. He will truly be missed, but his legacy will live on for many generations to come.
Winter Garden, Florida
(former Maumee resident)
Jack Hiles was a true treasure to Maumee, and to say he was a wealth of knowledge would be quite the understatement.
Each year, the Maumee Chamber of Commerce hosts the Hometown Hero Awards Banquet, honoring outstanding teachers, organizations and individuals in the community. Jack was the recipient of the Outstanding Citizen Award in 2002.
Jack would set up a stunning display of memorabilia, sometimes up to eight tables full of treasures. Jack took pride and pleasure in finding memorabilia that showcased how the Maumee Hometown Heroes truly made an impact. Not just any memorabilia, these pieces were specific to the winners of the awards. The year retired Maumee Fire Chief Don McConnaughy won the Hometown Hero Award, Jack showcased Maumee Fire Department pieces, photos, news clippings and more. Banquet attendees marveled at the items on display, smiling and recognizing something or someone with which they were familiar. Recipients and their families were very touched to see all the support pieces laid out expertly. The display was such an impactful part of the event, which made Hometown Hero Awards Banquet a personal, nostalgic and memorable event.
Every time we received a request that started with, “Do you know what store was at the corner of …” we called Jack, who happily answered his phone and listened to the request. Most of the time, Jack would know right off the top of his head, and a day or two later, he would email a photo or article that supported his answer. Hearing Jack’s stories was always a highlight of the week.
We will miss Jack dearly, and we often think of him fondly. Jack was a kind, thoughtful, clever and humorous man and we were lucky to call him a friend.
Maumee Chamber of Commerce
Mr. Maumee. He knew more Maumee history than anyone I knew.
On behalf of all the men and women of the Maumee Fire Division, we will truly miss Jack.
If anyone was “Maumee,” it was Jack, through and through. He was a great historian and always supported the fire division. Jack was instrumental in retaining, and re-telling, our proud history. He, along with Damian Pfleghaar, would spend many hours going through historical memorabilia and keep our display cases full of memories. It was always a pleasure to visit Jack and hear his stories.
We wish all the Hiles family peace and comfort.
City of Maumee
The Maumee community has lost its best resource for local history. Jack was an encyclopedia of knowledge that he would share with anyone at any time. It was a pleasure to have worked with Jack at the Maumee Memorabilia Museum.
I will always remember my friend Jack.
I began working with Jack as consultant/curator in 2004, several years after retiring as director of the Maumee Valley Historical Society in 2000.
During the following 10 years, I was constantly amazed at Jack’s dedication to the Wolcott Heritage Center as well as his lifelong interest in Maumee history. During his directorship, there was never a project that could not be done, and he had a knack for inspiring others to share his enthusiasm. Keeping the campus and the historical buildings in tip-top condition was a priority for him. His dream of preserving Maumee history and making it available to others came to fruition with the Maumee Memorabilia Museum, and it is a tribute to his years of preserving, sharing and inspiring others.
Marilyn (Marty) Wendler