Tradition • Character • Service

Tradition • Character • Service

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Hall of Famer and former Hillsdale Linebackers Coach Jack Hepinstall Sr. Passes Away

The game of football lost a real gem on Monday when former Hillsdale College assistant football coach Jack Hepinstall Sr. passed away in Ft. Myers, Florida.

Coach Hep was a great teacher who had worked with young men at the high school and college levels for over 50 years. Twenty of those seasons came working with some of Hillsdale College's legendary linebackers like Rodney Patterson, Jerry Klekotka, and Scott Duncan. I was a linebacker at Hillsdale and spent 4 years in Coach Hep's position group and a 5th year as a student assistant learning the game from him. I will always remember his warm eyes and handshake when I arrived at Hillsdale on a snowy November day to take my tour of the school and facilities. He loved his guys and one of the highlights of the week was Dominoes Pizza and the Thursday Night college football game with the other linebackers over at Hep's house. Oh...and there were all of the great stories that 50 years of coaching can deliver.

The last time I got to visit with Coach Hepinstall was during Homecoming of 2009. We sat near one another as Hillsdale shocked the world and knocked off Grand Valley, then ranked number 1 in the nation. His son Jack had brought him to game and alumni reunion. You could tell that he was getting older but he still know every guy and his mind was just as sharp. He was one of those guys who shaped my life. When you're 19 though you somehow don't value all of the wisdom that surrounds you. When I read his obituary below it really reminds me how fortunate I was to have spent so many days on the practice field with him. He's one of the reasons I didn't just bag football when it was a foregone conclusion I wouldn't be seeing the field too much on Saturdays. Give it a read and say a little prayer for Jack Jr. and the rest of Hep's family, including all of the guys whose lives are better because of him.

Jack N. Hepinstall, Sr., 89, of Ft Myers, FL, formerly of Hillsdale, MI passed away on Monday October 3, 2011 at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Ft Myers after a brief illness.  He was born on August 15, 1922 in White Cloud, MI to the late Oliver and Nellie Hepinstall.  He was preceded in death by his first wife, Phyllis (Lohr) in 1984, his brother James in 2010, and his step son William Harlan in 2009.  

Jack graduated from White Cloud High School in 1940. He earned college degrees from Michigan State University (Bachelors- 1948, Masters-1962) and Western Illinois University (Specialists-1972).  Jack was also an officer with the US Army serving in World War II and the Korean Conflict.    

During his outstanding career, he taught and coached various sports at high schools in Hart (MI), Blissfield (MI), WIU Laboratory School, Macomb (IL) and Hillsdale (MI).  While at Hillsdale, his 1972 football team was Michigan’s Class B State Champions.  After retiring from teaching in 1979, Jack worked one year at the University of Toledo in 1980.  He then was an assistant football coach with Hillsdale College (1985 NAIA National Champions) for twenty years retiring at the age of 78 in 2000.  He was inducted into Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame (1977), Michigan High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame (1984), and Blissfield Hall of Fame (2008).  

After his second retirement, Jack enjoyed living full time in Florida with his wife Marilyn; traveling, playing golf, cards, and visiting friends and family.

Jack is survived by his wife Marilyn (Harlan) married on July 4, 2004, his children, Linda Gragg, Stuarts Draft, VA, Jack (Julie) Hepinstall, Lakeland, FL, Jeff (Becky) Hepinstall, Toledo, OH, Susan Risk (Ray Briner), Hillsdale, MI, Amy (Jeff) Glock, Fallston, MD, and his step children MaryBeth (Michael) Gilroy, Robert (Diane McKeebe) Harlan, Jeffrey Harlan, James (Peggy) Harlan, grandchildren Angie and Luke Gragg, Emily and Alec Hepinstall, Kristen and Eric Hepinstall, Jason Jones, Jack and Will Glock, Ashley (Woodie) Munson, John and Emma Harlan, Connor Gilroy, and great grandchild Alivia Munson.

Memorial receptions to celebrate Jack’s life are being held at the Hillsdale Community Senior Services Center 320 W Bacon St Hillsdale Michigan on Sunday October 16, 2011 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM and at The Landings Yacht, Golf & Tennis Club, Helm Club 4425 S Landings Dr. Ft Myers FL 33919 on Saturday October 29, 2011 from 1:00PM to 4:00PM.  In lieu of flowers and for those wishing to give memorial contributions may consider gifts to the Jack McAvoy Scholarship Fund at Hillsdale College C/O Football Office, 33 East College St. Hillsdale, MI 49242. 

Online condolences may be sent to the family through the website

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