Constance Carmen Wilhelm passed away from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease on Friday, March 7, in the presence of her devoted husband, Hubert. She was 79.
At the time of her death, Connie, as she was known to her friends, was a resident of Bridgeway Pointe, an assisted living facility in Cincinnati, where Hubert also lives.
Connie was born in Springfield, Illinois, on October 12, 1934, the daughter of Alvin Randles, a high school educator and farmer, and Mary Grace Whitten, an accomplished vocalist and voice and piano teacher. Her parents separated when she was a little girl, and Connie was raised by her mother in the central Illinois town of Auburn. Though still a child herself, Connie played a large role in the upkeep of the small home in which she and her brother, Robert, lived.
Connie attended Auburn High School and, then, following in the footsteps of both of her parents, attended the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. She graduated with a degree in music education.
But it was while she was a student at Auburn High School that she first caught the eye of the young man who would become her husband. That young man, Hubert Wilhelm, was a refugee from post World War II Germany and had been brought to America as an exchange student by a farm family living just outside of Auburn.
Hubert returned to what had become East Germany at the conclusion of high school, but he had not forgotten the beautiful young woman he had met at Auburn High who was so full of life, laughter, and song. At substantial risk to life and limb, Hubert escaped East Germany, returned to Illinois, enrolled at the University of Illinois, and fended off Connie’s numerous suitors. They were married on June 12, 1955, while they were both undergraduates.
They began building a family, and Connie worked as an office assistant to help put some bread on the table while Hubert continued his studies, first at Illinois, and later at Louisiana State University. He earned a PhD, which would not have been possible without Connie’s editing, typing, and encouragement. Connie gave birth to David and Diana while living in Champaign and then to Suzanne while living in Baton Rouge.
In 1963, Connie and Hubert moved to Athens, Ohio, where Hubert had been hired as a teacher of geography at Ohio University. It was the only job he ever had or wanted, retiring as a full professor 35 years later. Connie and Hubert raised their family in Athens, living at first in a cramped two-bedroom apartment and moving later to what was then called “Beechwood Estates,” a development of new homes south of Athens, just off Ervin Road.
While her children were at home, Connie spent most of her time running the household. She ran a tight, clean, but happy, ship. Large Sunday dinners were a regular production of Connie’s, with the entire family seated around the table, and usually a major feast that combined the best of German and Midwestern cuisine was served (with an amazing assortment of pies always in the mix).
Connie was a lively and energetic mother; her children remember wondering how someone could possibly be so animated on phone calls. Connie loved to laugh, loved to sing--she had a magnificent soprano voice--and was a very sociable person, according to those who knew her best.
Once the children left home, Connie built a thriving business teaching piano lessons from her home. The sons and daughters of many Athens families have Connie to thank for their love of music.
Connie was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Athens and the Music Teachers National Association. She is survived by her husband, Hubert Wilhelm, who resides in Cincinnati, her three children, Diana (James, deceased) Pollock of Lancaster, Suzanne (Craig) Robinson of Cincinnati, and David (Degee) Wilhelm of Bexley. She is also survived by seven grandchildren- Kurt, Samantha, and Colleen Robinson; Benjamin and Kristen Pollock; Luke and Logan Wilhelm, and one great grandchild, Hunter Robinson, in addition to her brother, Robert (Bonnie)Brown of York, Pennsylvania.
Connie was buried at Alexander Union Cemetery, which is very close to the home she kept so well, at a family graveside service held yesterday on Monday. A public memorial service in celebration of Connie’s life will be held on Saturday, April 12th at 11 am at the Galbreath Memorial Chapel on the College Green of Ohio University. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Ohio University Foundation, P.O. Box 869, Athens, Ohio 45701, in support of the Constance C. and Hubert G.H. Wilhelm Scholarship in Geography. Arrangements are with Jagers & Sons Funeral Home, Athens. Please share a memory, a note of condolence or sign the online register book at www.jagersfuneralhome.com.