October 15, 1947 - December 7, 2017
O’Neil James “Jim” Newkirk aged 70 of Scottville passed away on Thursday, December 7, 2017. Jim was born on October 15, 1947, the oldest child of O’Neil “Boots” and Lyana June (Reinoehl) Newkirk and attended Mason County Central graduating with the Class of 1965. While at MCC he participated in various sports earning many awards and accolades. His love of sports followed him to Central Michigan University where he played football and loved participating in the intramural leagues. After graduation he continued displaying his athletic abilities pitching in local recreation softball leagues where he continually was at the top of the leaderboard in wins and home runs. As much as he loved playing, he found coaching and officiating just as fulfilling. A registered official since college, Jim officiated his last football game in September of 2017 completing a career spanning almost 50 years. He coached football, baseball, basketball, two seasons of track, and was registered to officiate football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, and softball. On June 12, 1971 he married Constance “Connie” Mates and they celebrated 44 years together before Connie preceded him in death on January 4, 2016. Jim was also preceded in death by his parents Boots and June Newkirk. Earlier this year on May 28th, Jim married Lois Schleder Bongard and they have blessed each other lives every day since. Jim called the CMU Social Studies department his “home away from home”. Being the son of revered MCC Social Studies teacher “Boots” Newkirk, Jim had grown up learning from one of the best. He was hired by Hart Public Schools in 1969 to teach Social Studies and coach JV football and freshmen basketball. He continued teaching at Hart High School for the next 40 years. During his career he received several notable awards including the Ferris E. Lewis Michigan History Teacher of the Year by the State of Michigan Historical Society and Hillsdale Publishers and History Teacher of the Year by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). “To be recognized by one’s peers for the work and effort put into teaching was truly gratifying, but the best recognition a teacher can hope for is to have former students return to share their love of history with the person whom they credit with helping their passion develop.” Jim continued his passion for education after retirement from Hart High School and began teaching a variety of classes at West Shore Community College. Over the years at Hart Jim taught Michigan History, US History, World History, Government, Economics, Psychology, Sociology, and a self-developed “Living History” class he created the curriculum for. Other activities for the history students have included a very successful Michigan History Club which travelled the state’s historic sites after the culmination of each school year. He also developed a “Black Powder Club” in which students would build and then shoot, with help from local police agencies, period black powder pistols. He had no idea what would develop when he approached a local welder to help the group build a cannon to shoot at Memorial and Veteran’s Day services. That group evolved into what is today Battery D, 1st Michigan Light Artillery. The Battery would become one of the largest and most respected Civil War artillery reenactment groups in the country. Jim was elected as the commander of the Battery each year since 1980. The strength and quality of the group allowed him to be recognized by the National Civil War Artillery Association as the George McDonald Artillerist of the year in 1996. That same year he would be honored by the Field Artillery Association of the United States Army with the Honorable Order of St. Barbara medal. Shortly thereafter, Jim was elected to 4 terms as National Chairman of the National Civil War Artillery Association serving longer than any chairman before, or since. Jim has served as a commander at over 30 national Civil War reenactments, presided over and taught at several National Artillery Schools and appeared in the movies “Gettysburg” and “Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure”. In an effort to continue to grow professionally he developed and presented “first person” programs to various groups from not only the Civil War, but from the French and Indian War, American Revolution, Spanish-American War, WWI, and WWII all in correct period dress. Jim was an Eagle Scout with Bronze Palm, member of the Order of the Arrow, Explorer Scout, Cubmaster and Scoutmaster for the Scottville Troop when his son Jimmy was active in scouting. In addition to Battery D, he was a member of the Mason County Historical Society, Michigan Historical Society, 40th Combat Engineers WWII living history group, and the Ludington Lions Club. Faith in God and family are the cornerstones of the Newkirk family. When one is hurting, all are hurting. When one is weak, the strong lift them up. Surrounded by his family Jim was lifted to Heaven. He was a lifelong member of, and raised his family, in the Scottville United Methodist Church. He held many leadership positions on boards and committees, taught Sunday School, and many times stepped in when a substitute pastor was needed. Jim was most proud of his family. With every addition his joy grew. Nothing pleased him more than seeing his wife, children, and grandchildren grow and succeed. He will be greatly missed by all of them. “History must be alive and meaningful for young and old to learn from, or our future citizens will most certainly make the same mistakes our ancestors did,” is a quote pulled from one of the speeches Jim wrote to address his teaching beliefs. Jim subscribed to the idea that it is a teacher’s duty to relate the past to today’s society. “Many seek to be entertained as they learn, and this creates a unique challenge to those who teach. The competition for the attention of our youth is unquestionable, but we must strive to pass the lessons of the past on to them, or they surely will be lost.” The world has lost one of the great soldiers dedicated to that quest. Jim will be greatly missed by his wife Lois, his children O’Neil “Jimmy” Newkirk III and wife Heather of Oscoda, and Kerry Krzymicki and husband Chad of Edmore; Lois’ children Troy Bongard and wife Deb of Clare, Shannon Bongard and wife Kristen of Sterling Heights, Mark Bongard of Ludington, and Rebekah Lane and husband Rich of Olympia, WA; his grandchildren Savanna and Cassidy Newkirk, Abraham and Gabriella Krzymicki, Ashland Chilson, Kelsey and Lucas Bongard, Jennifer Dana, Jessica and Julie Kroll, and Leona Lane; his great-grandchildren Evan, Haley, Addison, and Espen; his brother William Newkirk and wife Paula of Sanford; his sisters Susan Kelly and husband Bruce of Stony Lake, and Cynthia Yenkel and husband Marc of Clare; his father-in-law Carl Mates of Wisconsin; his sisters-in-law Ruth Ann Farrier of Alma, Muriel Derby of Ithaca, and Elisa Schleder of Mt. Pleasant; and many nieces and nephews. Funeral services will be held for Jim at 7:00 pm on Friday, December 15 at the Ludington United Methodist Church. Burial with full honors by the Battery D, 1st Michigan Light Artillery will take place at Riverside Cemetery in Custer in the spring. Friends may meet with his family for a time of visitation on Thursday from 4:00 – 8:00 pm at Wyman Funeral & Cremation Services – Stephens Funeral Home in Scottville and on Friday evening from 6:00 – 7:00 pm at the church. Those who wish to remember Jim with a memorial donation are asked to consider the following: The Newkirk Family Scholarship, Covenant Christian School, the Civil War Preservation Trust, or the Scottville United Methodist Church.
O’Neil James “Jim” Newkirk aged 70 of Scottville passed away on Thursday, December 7, 2017. Jim was born on October 15, 1947, the oldest child of O’Neil “Boots” and Lyana June (Reinoehl) Newkirk and attended... View Obituary & Service Information
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