Robert Hirschenberger

December 12, 1933 - August 19, 2023
Traverse City, MI


Life Story / Obituary


Robert Werner Hirschenberger died peacefully on August 19th, 2023, at age 89, surrounded by loved ones in Traverse City, Michigan. Bob was born in Flint, Michigan on December 12, 1933, to Michael and Gertrude (Buchin) Hirschenberger. Bob or “Hirsch” as he was known, grew up in Flint and graduated from Dye High School in 1952, lettering eleven times total in Basketball, Football, Baseball and Track, and receiving many honors and awards.

He started a drafting program with the General Motors Institute in August of 1952. After three months, he was hired in the AC Sparkplug drafting department, while attending evening classes at General Motors Institute. He then received a draft notice and entered the U.S. Army in April of 1954. He had basic training at Camp Chaffee, in Arkansas learning Morse code and Communications. In October 1954, he was shipped overseas with the 82nd reconnaissance Battalion and was assigned to the 5th Armored Division in Baumholder, Germany. Being stationed in Germany gave Bob an opportunity to meet his maternal grandparents in Hamburg, enjoying two Christmases with them. Bob enjoyed many historical and cultural sights in Western Europe while in the Army, traveling to France, England, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, with fellow Army soldiers who he remained friends with for life.

Upon his honorable discharge, Bob attended Central Michigan University. In the Fall of 1958, he met Shirley Vernon, the love of his life. They were engaged in the Spring of 1959, and married on September 5, 1959, in Flushing, MI at the Central United Methodist Church. They student taught together at Manistee High school in the fall of 1959, after a short honeymoon. Bob taught shop and a drafting class and Shirley taught French and English. They returned to CMU to finish up their degrees and in June of 1960, Bob received his Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Education and later, a Master of Arts degree. He played football and baseball for CMU and was a TKE fraternity member. Bob and Shirley moved to Sault Ste. Marie in August of 1960 to begin their careers and life together, raising three children.

Bob is probably best remembered as a drafting teacher for the Sault Area Public Schools and Skills Center, where he taught industrial drafting from 1960 to 1990. He was respected by his students and taught them vocational skills and mentored them in life. He served as a consistent role model for many students who affectionately call him ‘Dad’ and he deeply cared about them. He was known for his excellent draftsman handwriting, technical drawing skills and sharp dress, always in a sport coat and tie, and was well respected by his fellow colleagues. He coached the high school football and basketball team for a few seasons which led to a love of high school sports for the rest of his life. Following his retirement in 1990, he would often hear from former students about his impact on them.

Bob took pride in remodeling the family home on the upper St. Mary’s River where he enjoyed watching freighters, fishing, working in the yard, gardening, or playing games with his kids. He made many lifelong friends in the Sault through teaching, bowling, coaching, horseshoes, Lakeshore subdivision, working the I-500 and Central United Methodist Church. He attended Blue Devil games in the Soo until he moved away and never missed one of his children’s games or events. He was a supportive father who taught his children many practical skills, the meaning of keeping your word and was a lifelong mentor for many. He was a loving father, grandfather and husband, and a great role model to his children and grandchildren. He was loved by his nieces and nephews.

After retirement, Bob and Shirley traveled to Alaska and the United States for several years, settling in Traverse City in 1998. They spent winters in Arizona and Florida until 2016. If his grandsons had a hockey or soccer game, track meet, concert, or boy scout ceremony, Grandpa Hirsch was there. He enjoyed fishing adventures on the St. Mary’s River and in Northern Ontario, hunting, and golfing with his son, son-in-law, and grandsons. He also enjoyed yard work, horseshoes and building things. Grandpa’s workshop in his basement always had a project for the boys to do together. Bob was always up for a game of cribbage, cards, bocce ball or going on a scenic drive.

He is survived by a son Rob Hirschenberger, daughters Julie (Kevin) Ringwelski and Wendy Hirschenberger, all of Traverse City; grandsons Scott, Kyle, and Eric Ringwelski; brother Ed (Nancy) Hirschenberger, sister-in-law Patricia Niergarth and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends. Bob was preceded in death by his parents Michael and Gertrude Hirschenberger, his wife Shirley, his sister Irene Coburn, and other loved ones.

Bob was a true GENTLEMAN and would always offer help to others. He was kind, gentle, polite, respectful, friendly, loyal, trustworthy, sincere, observant, and patient. He always had a smile and a twinkle in his eye and loved to tell a good story. He made friends easily and once you were his friend, you were his friend for life. He was athletic his entire life, also competing as an adult in softball, bowling, horseshoes, and the Senior Olympics. He was a Detroit Tigers fan and loved to watch his grandsons and great nephews compete at Traverse City West He was very proud of his three children and grandsons.

Even after the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s, Bob maintained his gentle demeanor and showed appreciation and gratitude to everyone who cared for him. The family would like to thank the staff at Orchard Creek Supportive Care, Hospice of Michigan and those who continued to reach out and visit him.

An informal gathering will be held 1 pm to 3pm, Friday, September 15, 2023, at Life Story Funeral Home, Traverse City. Military Honors will be performed at 3pm with a Celebration of Life Service to follow until 4pm. To honor Bob’s love of cookies, a cookie reception will take place. Per his wishes, cremation has taken place. A private Interment of Bob and Shirleys cremated remains will be held later at Peninsula Township Cemetery on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City.

Memorial donations may be made for a remembrance bench along the TART trail. Please ensure "Hirschenberger Memory Bench” is noted on the check or on the online form.

https://traversetrails.org/give/donate/ or checks may be brought to the Celebration of Life Service or sent to: TART Trails, Inc. PO Box 252 Traverse City, MI 49685.