James Lee ‘Jim’ Hemmelgarn


Jim Hemmelgarn completed his earthly mission and returned peacefully home to his Lord and Creator, surrounded on his last day by loving family. The “big man with the big voice” spent his time here heralding the people of Columbus and Indianapolis with a singing voice that was made for big time but was reserved for worship, and providing counseling and direction to youths.

The son of Sergeant Major Arnold B. “Cork” Hemmelgarn and Ruth Lause-Hemmelgarn, Jim was born in Lima, OH, and traveled all over the US and Germany as an Army brat before attending Brunnerdale Seminary, St. Joseph’s College of IN, Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. He taught history at Norfolk Catholic High School and night-capped as a DJ for WGAIA radio where the love of music and sports led him to cover early NASCAR races and rock n’ roll.

Jim moved to Columbus in early 1975 with his first wife and settled in to raise a family, working at White River Broadcasting in the early days of WKKG.

A long-time member of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Columbus, Jim was synonymous with their music ministry from the mid-70’s through the early 2000’s, also serving as Director of Religious Education for the church before transitioning to the Atterbury Job Corps Center where he mentored young men and women.

Jim enjoyed plays, especially musicals and comedies, and shared that love with his children and grandchildren, even going so far as to shave his trademark goatee for a role as Ben Franklin in 1776. Jim was also active as an umpire, officiating well over 4,000 games of baseball and softball and known for distinct and LOUD calls and was a lifelong Reds fan. Jim was an avid woodworker as well, reveling in creating miniatures and dollhouses for his daughters and granddaughters. His creative and fun-loving spirit was a testament to how he lived and will be remembered.

Jim was preceded into the Kingdom by his parents; and his first wife, the late Sue Carol White-Hemmelgarn.

He is survived by his loving wife, Lynn Bracken-Hemmelgarn; five children, V. Ruth Holcomb, Joe Hemmelgarn (Tina), and Susan Smitley (Joshua), Doug Bracken (Amie), Chad Bracken (Hannah); sixteen grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren; as well as two sisters, Ann Madden (Patrick) and Marilyn White.

A celebration of life Mass will be held at Nativity Catholic Church on April 5th at 11:00 a.m., with fellowship gathering afterwards. In lieu of flowers, it is requested that donations be made to Nativity Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, or the American Diabetes Association.