Jackson County

Former Navy wife, Hilsabeck was independent to the end


PASCAGOULA -- Margaret Hilsabeck was a former military wife who volunteered wherever she could, but her favorite was reading to the kindergartners at Eastlawn Elementary.

Her nickname was Marge, but everyone called her Granny.

When she died Saturday at age 91, it was the end of an era in her family. She was part of that post-World War II generation that went through a lot of ordeals, but still led quality lives.

She outlived two sons, an infant and an adult who died of cancer. She and her husband, Del, lost their life savings to a local investment scandal in the 1980s and, as a widow, she lost her home and everything she owned to 2005's Hurricane Katrina.

But each time, she came back. And she was able to live in her own home until the last weeks of her life.

From a different time

"That generation, they were tough and they didn't complain," said Diane Hilsabeck, her daughter-in-law.

Marge Hilsabeck's husband was career Navy, a submariner who retired to a civil service job at Ingalls Shipbuilding. They raised three children in Pascagoula, then sold their home and traveled the U.S. for almost a decade. For their older years they returned to Pascagoula.

Her husband died two years before Katrina took her home and belongings. She wound up living in a little house next to her son Dan and his family in the Lake Avenue area of Pascagoula, where she loved to take walks and wave to the neighbors. School children would wait for her to come by.

"The entire neighborhood knew her," Diane Hilsabeck said. "They watched out for her. They watched her decline.

Walk instead of ride

"When we took her car, which made her mad, she walked to the neighborhood grocery store and walked home, even when someone offered her a ride," she said.

She enjoyed the family German shepherd, Zeke, who would walk with her. She loved her five grandkids and three great-grandkids.

A celebration of her life will be at 6 p.m. Friday at Eastlawn United Methodist Church. Visitation begins at 5:30 p.m.