Obituary: O’Neil James ‘Jim’ Newkirk, 70, Scottville.

December 10, 2017

James Newkirk

Obituary: O’Neil James ‘Jim’ Newkirk, 70, Scottville.

O’Neil James “Jim” Newkirk, 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 schools, graduating with the Class of 1965. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Central Michigan University and taught at Hart High School for 40 years before retiring in 2009. He was a Michigan High School Athletic Association referee for almost 50 years, a coach, and advisor of many school activities.  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 28, Jim married Lois Schleder Bongard and they have blessed each other lives every day since.

During Jim’s 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). However, Jim most appreciated the recognition of his former students. Until his recent illness he had been teaching classes at West Shore Community College.

Jim was one of the founders of Battery D, 1st Michigan Light Artillery. Through this group Jim earned recognition by the National Civil War Artillery Association as the George McDonald Artillerist of the year in 1996, and was honored by the Field Artillery Association of the United States Army with the Honorable Order of St. Barbara medal.  Jim spent four terms as National Chairman of the National Civil War Artillery Association, 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”. Additionally, he developed and presented “first person” programs to various groups from not only the Civil War, but the French and Indian War, American Revolution, Spanish-American War, World War I, and Word War II.

Jim was an Eagle Scout with Bronze Palm, member of the Order of the Arrow, Explorer Scout, cub master and scout master for the Scottville Troop when his son Jimmy was 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.

Surrounded by his family, Jim was lifted to Heaven.  He was a lifelong member the Scottville United Methodist Church, where he held many leadership positions on boards and committees, taught Sunday School, and stepped in when a substitute pastor was needed.  However, Jim was most proud of his family. Nothing pleased him more than seeing his family members grow and succeed.

He 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, Wash.; his grandchildren, Savannah 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 p.m. 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 to 8 p.m. at Wyman Funeral & Cremation Services – Stephens Funeral Home in Scottville and on Friday evening from 6 to 7 p.m. 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.

Please visit Jim’s memory page at to read his complete story, leave a tribute for his family, or to light a candle in his memory.

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