Woodhead Funeral Home
310 West Shelby Street
Falmouth, KY 41040

Ernie Hillenmeyer

Obituary Condolences

Ernie Hillenmeyer Obituary
MAYSVILLE - Rev. Mr. Ernest Bernard Hillenmeyer, Jr., lived by the motto his father instilled: "Be honest, and be of service to your community." Mr. Hillenmeyer embodied that creed throughout his life, each guided by love of God, family and his community. Mr. Hillenmeyer, former president of Parker Tobacco Company and leader in Catholic church and civic affairs, died April 3, 2014, at the age of 92 in Maysville, KY, where he raised seven children and lived for the past 68 years. He helped establish Meadowview Regional Hospital and the nearby Hospice of Hope, where he served as its first chaplain. In 1985, he was ordained a deacon in the Catholic Church as part of the Diocese of Covington's first class to enter the permanent diaconate and served his home parish at St. Patrick Church, Maysville, along with St. James Church in Brooksville, where he was pastoral associate from 1998 to 2002. Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, KY, where Mr. Hillenmeyer was the first layman to chair the board of trustees, awarded him an honorary doctorate in May 2013 for his lifetime of leadership. "Deacon Ernie Hillenmeyer was a gentleman and a man of integrity," said Sister Justina Franxman, OSB, his friend and spiritual director. "He loved God, his family and the Church. He was committed to his ministry and saw Jesus in the people to whom he ministered. Ernie loved life and lived it to the full." "Ernie" Hillenmeyer was born February 26, 1922, in Lexington, KY, to Ernest B. Hillen-meyer, Sr., and Mathilde Scott Hillenmeyer and grew up on his parents' farm. He attended St. Paul's school, and graduated as valedictorian of the class of 1938 at Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. He attended the University of Kentucky, then graduated in 1942 from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY. He held a commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve until 1952, when he was discharged as a lieutenant. Mr. Hillenmeyer spent 3½ years during World War II as a deck officer aboard liberty ships in the Merchant Marine, sailing with the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. During the war, he met Ellen Cochran Parker, a Maysville native whom he married in April 1945. His father-in-law, S. Alex Parker, Sr., hired him into the family's tobacco business in 1946 and the couple settled in Maysville, where their four children were born. Following his first wife's death in 1960, Mr. Hillenmeyer married Mary Agnes Farrell of Ludlow, KY, whom he met through his childhood friend, the late Msgr. John F. Murphy. Married in October 1961, the couple had three more children. He frequently traveled abroad for business and hosted international guests in the creek-side house he built in Aberdeen's Huntington Park, one of two subdivisions he helped to develop. Whether boating, pitching horseshoes, playing bridge or crosswords or cheering on the Kentucky Wildcats, Mr. Hillenmeyer enjoyed family and friends and delighted in competition. He took pride, too, in his gardens, producing homegrown tomatoes and asparagus into his 90s. Mr. Hillenmeyer began his association with Thomas More College in the mid-1950s when he was invited to join the Board of Overseers, and was later elected chairman in 1960. This Board recommended the college's move from downtown Covington, KY, to Crestview Hills and the construction of a new campus. Along with education, Mr. Hillenmeyer worked to advance ecumenism, health care, and economic and human development. As a member of the Limestone Ministerial Association, he led ministers to observe an annual week of prayer for Christian unity, now in its 42nd year. He chaired a fund-raising drive to build a new hospital to replace Maysville's outdated Hayswood Hospital. For 10 years, he chaired the Hayswood Foundation, launching its grant program which benefitted St. Patrick's School, the YMCA, and the Boys and Girls Club. A founding member of the Council for Burley Tobacco, Mr. Hillenmeyer testified before Congress on behalf of tobacco trade associations, and formerly presided over the Burley Tobacco Dealers Association. He served two terms as council member and vice-mayor of Aberdeen, OH; was a district chairman for the Boy Scouts of America; president of the Maysville Country Club; director of the Maysville-Mason County Area Chamber of Commerce; presided over Appalachian Industries in Vanceburg, KY; and belonged to the American Legion, Mason County Extension Council, and UK Alumni Association. During retirement, he and his wife routinely attended daily Mass, and prayer and scriptural reflection continued to nurture their deep bonds of affection and eagerness to share their faith. "Ernie is a pillar - gentle and firm at the same time," cousin Robert F. Houlihan, Jr., of Lexington said. "He's loved and respected." Mr. Hillenmeyer was predeceased by his first wife, Ellen, son Ernest B. Hillenmeyer, III, and sister Eleanor Hillenmeyer Reichel. Along with his wife, Mary, he is survived by sister Mary Hillenmeyer Fiore of Kansas City, MO, plus six children, 11 grandchildren, beloved in-laws and many other dear relatives. He leaves daughters Zoe H. Gillespie (Joseph) and Theresa H. Mattei (Dr. Michael); daughter-in-law Beth Hoovler Hillen-meyer; daughters Cecelia H. Denegre (Joseph), Ellen Hillenmeyer (Mark Wesling), Kathleen Hillenmeyer, and son Paul Hillenmeyer (Mary Woodhead). Survivors also include grandchildren Elizabeth Gillespie, J.D., Ellen Gillespie, Eric Mattei, Dr. Nicholas Mattei (Elizabeth Dusing), Zoe Hillenmeyer, Sara Hillenmeyer (Casey Marks), Andrew and Lucy Denegre, Daniel and Stephen Hillenmeyer, and Luke von Brauchitsch; and sisters-in-law Zoe Parker Chamness and Betsy Buie Parker. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11am, Monday, April 7, at St. Patrick Church, preceded on Sunday, April 6, by a 4-8pm visitation in the church, which includes vigil prayers at 7:30pm. Following the committal rite at St. Patrick Cemetery, friends and family are invited to gather at the Limestone Center. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the John J. Brannen Foundation, c/o St. Patrick School, 318 Limestone Street, Maysville, KY 41056 or St. Patrick Church, 111 East Third Street, Maysville, KY 41056. Woodhead Funeral Home, Falmouth is serving the family. Online condolences can be sent to the family at

Published in Lexington Herald-Leader on Apr. 5, 2014
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