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Published: Tuesday, 5/24/2005

Special education teacher was active retiree volunteer

Margaret G. Hilfinger, a former special education teacher who dedicated her retirement years to volunteer and fund-raising efforts for various civic and charitable organizations, died of cancer on Sunday at Lake Park Skilled Nursing Facility. She was 73.

The mother of six children, Mrs. Hilfinger dedicated most of her life to her family - both the one at home and the one she met while working as an elementary reading specialist for Maplewood School in Sylvania, daughter Katie Camp said. It wasn't until she retired and her children had grown that Mrs. Hilfinger focused her attention in a new direction: helping area organizations.

"She had some catching up to do," Mrs. Camp said. "There was always something she wanted to do, but when we were young, she devoted the time to us. Then when the youngest one was in high school, she started volunteering. And when he graduated, she really went full speed."

Although not a native of the area - she was born and raised in Hersey, Mich. - Mrs. Hilfinger embraced the Sylvania community and always tried to support local businesses. So when she came by asking for sponsorships and donations, nearly everyone recognized her face and she was always successful, Mrs. Camp said.

She organized fashion shows and silent auctions for groups such as the Lourdes College Auxiliary and Franciscan Center, The Toledo Animal Shelter Auxiliary, The Toledo Opera Guild, and the Toledo Symphony.

But she always held a special place in her heart for the Toledo Day Nursery and the Ability Center of Greater Toledo.

Tim Harrington, executive director of the Ability Center, described Mrs. Hilfinger as a "wonderful friend of the Ability Center" and "a giver."

"She helped with the fund-raising, the phone-a-thon, the style shows. You name it, she was there," he said.

"Margaret really cared about people, and she really cared about the people we served. That's what drove her."

Mrs. Hilfinger enjoyed traveling after her retirement from the school district and was part of a travel group with her husband, Skip.

It was a passion she also wanted to share with her children, and in 1997 the family traveled to California for the Rose Bowl where they cheered Mr. and Mrs. Hilfinger's alma mater - the University of Michigan - to victory. However, the family's plans in 2002 to celebrate the couple's 50th anniversary on a cruise ship was canceled because of complications from the cancer that appeared in Mrs. Hilfinger's brain and lungs.

Mrs. Camp said her mother will be remembered for her strong family values and the little jokes she loved to play on friends and family - including tying a fake mouse to a string and sliding it across the floor.

"She was just a fantastic woman," Mr. Hilfinger said.

Surviving are her husband, Howard W. "Skip" Hilfinger III; daughters, Kathleen Camp and Sara Jackson; sons, Kurt, James, Steven, and George Eric; and 14 grandchildren.

Visitation will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at Reeb Funeral Home in Sylvania. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at Hope Lutheran Church in Ottawa Hills.

The family suggests tributes to the Ability Center of Greater Toledo and the Toledo Day Nursery.



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