Quincy News

Hilfrink was community leader, 'tremendous newspaperman'

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 22, 2019 12:01 am

QUINCY -- Mike Hilfrink was described as a "true professional" by one of his former colleagues.

Hilfrink, 70, who died July 19 in Bloomington, Ill., retired in 2013 as executive editor and general manager of The Herald-Whig after a 35-year career at the paper.

"Mike was genial, but firm ... a true professional," said Joe Conover, former editor of The Herald-Whig, who worked for 18 years with Hilfrink.

Conover, who retired from The Herald-Whig in 2001, recalls Hilfrink's ability to work with and mold aspiring reporters.

"I remember Mike as a craftsman, in terms of guiding reporters " Conover said.

Conover said he will always remember the leadership and expertise displayed by Hilfrink during The Herald-Whig's award-winning coverage of the 1993 flood.

"Mike's true colors as a newsman were shown during that time," Conover said.

Hilfrink first worked at The Herald-Whig as a reporter in 1970, then left in 1975 to become state editor of the Daily Dispatch in Moline, Ill., where he later served as city editor and assistant managing editor before returning to The Herald-Whig in 1984 as managing editor. He was named executive editor in 2001 and in 2009 took on additional duties as general manager.

"Mike and I worked together for years and years," said Thomas A. Oakley, who retired as publisher of The Herald-Whig in late 2017 and also served as president and chief executive officer of Quincy Media, Inc. "Mike was a tremendous newspaperman."

Oakley said Hilfrink was committed to interests and priorities that were vital to the region.

"Mike's input was invaluable," Oakley said. "He was a quiet, behind-the-scenes kind of guy who never complained. He was very perceptive and one of the top people I worked with during my (60-plus year) career."

Hilfrink was a longtime supporter of numerous civic causes, activities and organizations, including the Salvation Army. He served on the Salvation Army Advisory Board, plus the steering committee that helped secure funding and coordinated plans for the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.

Hilfrink was active with Chaddock, Access Health of Adams County, Great River Recovery Resources board, Sunset Home, United Way, Civic Music Association and the Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce.

Hilfrink also was also involved in efforts to promote economic development and infrastructure in West-Central Illinois.

"Many people live in a community, but not necessarily contribute -- but Mike really cared about Quincy," said former educator and longtime community activist Lee Lindsay. "Mike was the kind of man who lived out his God-given purpose, and he didn't mind voicing his opinion on what he was interested in ... and he had so many interests.

"Mike was unique, and he was dedicated."

Kelly Wilson, a former Herald-Whig reporter who worked with Hilfrink, remembers the time with a sense of gratitude.

"When I was a young reporter, I was fortunate to have a handful of mentors who helped me learn the ropes and cemented my love of writing and journalism," Wilson said. "Mike was one of those mentors. He was tough when he had to be, but he also gave me opportunities to grow and offered support, guidance and respect. I'll be forever grateful for that.

"Mike was passionate about the news industry and worked tirelessly to improve The Herald-Whig during his tenure. He knew the paper's success was rooted in the people who worked there -- and he treated them accordingly.

"Those of us who worked with Mike will remember him as a genuinely kind man with a sense of humor and a generous spirt," Wilson said. "He will be deeply missed."

Hilfrink graduated from Christian Brothers High School (now Quincy Notre Dame) in 1966, attended Quincy University and graduated with honors from the University of Illinois-Urbana in 1970.

Hilfrink married Evanna R. Barnes on May 25, 1968. She survives.

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