Jerry Hilgenberg, 92


Jerry Hilgenberg died Jan. 14, 2024, leaving this world to be with his family in heaven. Jerry lived his life with compassion and caring, always putting the well-being of his family above all else. 

Family and friends are invited to an informal gathering in memory of Jerry on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024, from 1-3 p.m. at Kinnick Stadium in the North End Zone Ted Pacha Family Club Section. A private memorial service and burial will take place at a later date.

Jerry was born on April 9, 1931, in Coon Rapids, Iowa to Walter “Curly” and LaVonne Hilgenberg. He cherished his upbringing in Wilton Junction, Iowa. His close-knit family included his older sister, Donna and younger brother, Wally. 

Jerry’s early years were spent playing pickup games of football, basketball and baseball. He also enjoyed playing marbles with his friends and hunting and fishing with his family. In Jerry’s senior year at Wilton high school, the school board of which his father was a member, started a football program.

From that experience, Jerry walked on without a scholarship to the University of Iowa football team where he played center and linebacker. His success on the football field earned first team All American honors in 1953, a recognition he attributed to the help he received from his coaches and teammates. His success in the classroom earned All Big Ten Academic Team honors. Jerry’s athletic abilities extended to baseball where he co-captained the 1952 Iowa team.

In the fall of 1953 Jerry persuaded JoAnn Carr to have a Coca Cola date with him. Six months later they embarked on a lifelong journey together in marriage. 

Jerry was selected in the fourth round of the 1954 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. However, Jerry’s commitment to the Air Force ROTC diverted his path. After completing his service to the country Jerry chose coaching over a playing career. 

Eight years as an assistant coach from 1956 to 1963 was highlighted by two Rose Bowl wins in 1957 and 1959. Jerry left coaching in 1963 but continued his contributions to the University by doing radio color commentary for Hawkeye football games on KXIC radio and by joining the UI Foundation where he assisted in initial organization and development efforts. Jerry was grateful to have 14 family members attend Iowa, including six Iowa football letter winners and one volleyball letter winner. 

Jerry then began a career in the business world by joining Roland M. Smith Realtors as a partner, broker and developer. He was honored to have served as a President of the Iowa City Rotary Club, on the Parks and Recreation board and with wife, JoAnn, be a member of the UI Presidents Club. Jerry looked forward to his Canadian fishing trips with the same group of friends for 42 consecutive years. He also pursued a passion of flying, becoming an instrument rated pilot and taking his family on many memorable trips across the country.

Jerry was preceded in death by his parents, sister and brother. He is survived by his devoted and lovely wife, JoAnn; children: Jim (Judy), Jane (Dave) Jensen, Jay and Joel (Jeanie) along with 15 grandchildren and 4, soon to be 5, great grandchildren.  

Memorial donations may be made to the University of Iowa Center for Advancement for the Baseball Stadium Renovation Fund or to The Bird House – Hospice Home of Johnson County.