John Lewis Hilke

Herewith, we celebrate the life of John L. Hilke who died from cancer shortly after Thanksgiving, 2011.  He was 91 years old.

Mr. Hilke was born at Canajoharie, NY, in 1920.  His parents were John F. and Emma Hilke.  After graduating from Canajoharie High School in 1937, John attended Cornell University where he received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1942.  While at Cornell, he met his future wife Charlotte Coryell. John and Charlotte married after she graduated from Cornell in 1943.

During WWII, John worked for General Electric, testing turbine generator sets for naval vessels and working on the early development of jet engines.  After the war, he switched to GE’s power generation unit and this led to his accepting a position in the power generation division of Niagara Mohawk Power Company (now National Grid) in Buffalo, NY.  Eventually, John became the Chief Mechanical Engineer for Niagara Mohawk and managed much of the engineering work for the Nine Mile 1 and 2 nuclear power plants.  John retired in 1984.

John, Charlotte, and John’s parents, moved to Hamburg, NY, in 1948.  Their son, John C. Hilke, was born in 1950.

John was an enthusiastic hunter, hiker, camper, bicyclist, and Great Books participant during the 19 years he lived in Hamburg.  He was an active member of the Hamburg Rod and Gun Club during his first years in Hamburg.  In the early 1950s, he and Charlotte became charter members of the Hamburg Unitarian Universalist Church.  He was active in supporting Boy Scout Troop 527 when his son was participating in scouting.


In 1969, John and Charlotte moved to Syracuse, NY, where he completed his engineering career and took up home wine making.  In 1984, he and Charlotte moved to the Leisure World community in Silver Spring, MD, in order to be near his son’s family.  While in Silver Spring, John and Charlotte were members of the Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church, where John enjoyed the science and religion discussion group for nearly 15 years.  He also spent many hours assisting Charlotte as she developed as a water color artist.

In 2007, they both went to live with their son and daughter-in-law in Salt Lake City when Charlotte encountered significant health problems.  After her death in 2008, John moved with his son and daughter-in-law to Woodinville, Washington to be near his great grandchildren.  During his years in Woodinville, he once again joined discussion groups, this time at Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church, and delighted in planning and taking two cruises to Alaska and one through the Panama Canal.

All through his adult life, John enjoyed following the stock market and keeping informed by reading the Wall Street Journal.  He often shared important or amusing stories from the Journal with his family.   John is survived:  by his son, John C. Hilke and daughter-in-law, D.D. Hilke, of Woodinville, WA; grandchildren Cory Hilke of Redmond, WA, and Anne Hilke of Charlotte, NC; by his great-grand children Kim, Jenna, and Ethan Hilke of Redmond;  and by several relatives in Fort Plain and other parts of upstate NY.
A memorial service will be held on February 5, 2012, at 4 pm at the Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church in Washington State.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.


One Response to “John Lewis Hilke”

  • joy n sharon says:

    we miss you very much john. The songs,good times,laughter,wonderful stories,joyful time and many many more. You are in our thoughts always. You are in a better place. R.I.P. John

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