Jean Rourke Hillegass

Published 12:19 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Jean Rourke Hillegass, 90 years young, passed away peacefully on March 20 after a short illness in her hometown of Norfolk. Mom died the way she lived; surrounded by her children and loved ones. She might be on her way to heaven, but she will never leave our hearts.

Born on Oct. 15, 1926, in Norfolk, to the late Doris M. Rourke, mom married the only man she ever loved, Reon Hillegass, in 1948, and they were together until his passing in 2011. She is survived by Mary Hardy (Gary), of Virginia Beach, Reon G. Hillegass III, of Lake Worth, Fla., Samuel C. Hillegass, of Norfolk, Elizabeth Jean Hillegass, of Norfolk, Timothy J. Hillegass (Julia), of Smithfiel, Jessie Mae Hillegass of Lake Worth, Fla. and Sean F. Hillegass of Norfolk,

She is also survived by eight grandchildren, Heather Hardy Greenhaw, Gary Hardy Jr., Jennifer F. Hardy, Ashley Jean Hardy, Jean Matthias Hillegass, Adam Sotzing, Joseph Hillegass and Ceara G.H. Sotzing; and five great-grandchildren, John H. Greenhaw, Stanley C. Walker III, Faye E. Hardy, Dustin H. Drumheller and Elizabeth J. Hillegass.

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Mom was involved with many charities and organizations, including the St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children Auxiliary for more than 50 years, board member for the Little Theater of Norfolk, United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Charlemagne Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Colonist (State Regent), of which she was so proud her license plates read VA DAC, the Order of the Merovingian Dynasty, ODU Town and Gown, and she was the owner of Hillegass Properties and past vice-president of Hillegass Lighting.

But mom’s No. 1 job, and the one of which she was the proudest, was as a loving wife and mother. She was the mother of seven, but mom to many, as mom opened the doors to her big house, and even bigger heart to many people and groups over the years. The Hillegass house was home central for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, countless birthday parties over the years, TV commercials, small movies and parties to honor friends and family. Even when the party was to honor someone else, mom’s natural charm and wit made her the center of attention, as she held court no matter where she sat.

Warm spring, summer and fall days would find mom sitting on her rocking chair on the front porch, overlooking Stockley Gardens and the world, as she enjoyed every day as if it was her last. 

Mom epitomized the true meaning of a Southern Belle, from her elegant looks, to the way she carried herself with grace and dignity, to her Southern accent, and while she did not finish college, she had a graduate degree in how to raise a family and how to treat people. 

It’s said that they don’t make ’em like they used to, and in the case of Jean R. Hillegass it has never ben more true.
The family will receive friends from 6 – 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 23, at H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts., 1501 Colonial Ave., Norfolk.  A funeral Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Friday, March 24 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Norfolk.  Burial will follow in St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children Auxiliary at 6171 Kempsville Circle, Norfolk, VA 23502.  Online condolences may be offered at