By Lindsey Ziliak
W. John Hingst quietly gave to others his whole life.
Friends say the impacts of his generosity will extend far beyond his death. Hingst, a Kokomo philanthropist and businessman, died Wednesday.
“John was outstanding; there’s no question about that,” family friend E. P. Severns said. “He shared what he had with the community basically since he graduated from Purdue University.”
Hingst was born March 19, 1926, in Vernon, Texas.
After graduating from high school, he attended University of Texas until World War II called him away, his obituary stated. He served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper and interpreter. After being wounded in the Normandy invasion, he was granted a medical discharge.
When he got back, he enrolled at Purdue University and earned a degree in chemical engineering.
He and his wife moved to Kokomo in 1950, and he started as treasurer of Miller Transportation Corp.
According to his obituary, his life of volunteering began immediately.
He served as national president of the Beta Sigma Psi fraternity, and in 17 years, it grew from two to 17 chapters nationwide.
Pastor Bill Allison said Hingst was always serving the people at Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer in some way.
He taught catechism classes and served on many church committees and boards. Hingst helped the church out financially, too.
He established an endowment with the Community Foundation of Howard County to fund the church’s ministries for years to come.
“He tried to make sure his gifts go on forever,” said Hilda Burns, president of the community foundation.
Another endowment supports different charitable causes throughout the community, and a third endowment funds the Boy Scouts of America Sagamore Council.
“He wanted to provide the funding to make sure that every kid who wanted to join the Boy Scouts had the chance to do so,” said Scout Executive Chris Mehaffey.
The money is used for scholarships for summer camp and to keep program costs low for kids, Mehaffey said.
The scouts were a group near and dear to Hingst’s heart. He had a certain passion for the organization.
He was once a scout in Texas, but he fell just short of becoming an Eagle Scout.
Severns laughed as he recalled the reason why.
“I’ve heard that story several times,” Severns said. “He told people, ‘I would have been an Eagle Scout, but I couldn’t swim.’”
Hingst volunteered his time as a Scoutmaster and watched as all three of his sons became Eagle Scouts.
It wasn’t just his sons he helped, though.
He served as a mentor for many young boys in the organization, said family friend Craig Severns.
To understand what kind of mentor he was, you don’t have to look any farther than his children, Craig Severns said.
“They all have that heart that they want to serve,” he said. “I’m sure they will carry on his good works.”
But Hingst would never tell people about the good things he did.
He was committed to making Kokomo a better place, but he loved to do it very quietly.
Many called him humble.
“He wanted to help others because it was the right thing to do,” Craig Severns said.
Hingst’s death will leave a hole in community, Burns said.
“It’s sad to lose someone like that,” she said. “He’ll be hard to replace.”