John Henry Hiatt

February 3, 1928October 9, 2020

John Henry Hiatt (February 3, 1928 – October 9, 2020)

The family doctor arrived by horse and sleigh during a winter snowstorm to deliver John to his parents, Mahlon and Lillian (Hopkins) Hiatt, at their Bridge Street home on February 3, 1928. This lifetime resident of DeWitt passed away at the age of 92 on Friday, October 9, 2020, at the family home on Turner Road, surrounded by his wife and four daughters.

John received his education in the DeWitt Public Schools, graduating from DeWitt High School in 1945. The Battle of the Bulge had just concluded and John was determined to serve, but his parents would not give their permission. So John worked at the United States Post Office until he turned 18 and then, with his good friend, Lee Lankford, took a trip to the Army recruiting office and enlisted. By the time he concluded his basic training, Germany had surrendered, and John served his time in Germany during the Nuremburg Trials.

When his tour of duty concluded, John returned to DeWitt and married his high school sweetheart, Marilyn Brownlee. John and Marilyn built their home on Turner Road and began their family.

John took a job at the Oldsmobile factory in Lansing for a time, and he and Marilyn also ran the DeWitt Theater (now the home of Reilly’s Bar). He left Oldsmobile to take over his father’s business as an agent for Standard Oil Company and later established the Hiatt and Day Oil Company with his partner and friend, Art Day, delivering Speedway home heating fuel. After Hiatt and Day Oil Company closed its door, John worked for several years delivering fuel for South Lansing Fuel Company. His final employer was Auto Air Industries, where he worked in the shop, served as a Union Steward, and was their truck driver until he retired in 1990.

Throughout his life, John supported the DeWitt community through his active membership in many civic organizations. He is a past president of the DeWitt Lions Club; served as Worshipful Master of the DeWitt Masonic Lodge; and was a member of the Wacousta/DeWitt Masonic Lodge #359 and the DeWitt VFW Post #671. John actively supported the DeWitt Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and coached boys’ baseball. He also served on the DeWitt City Council and participated in the organization of the DeWitt Ox Roast for many years.

John enjoyed many recreational activities, but golfing, dancing, woodworking, and travel were among his favorites. John and Marilyn went dancing whenever possible. During a camping trip to Tawas, the family took a cruise down the Ausable River on an old paddle-wheel boat. John decided the paddle-wheel boat would be the perfect venue to host a dance party and immediately set about hiring a band and organizing a group trip down the Ausable River. It was such a hit that it became a popular annual event for several years.

Golf was a passion, and his daughters grew up believing his mantra that "It never rains on the golf course." He would often stand in the front yard of their home on Turner Road and practice his swing, hitting golf balls into the pasture across the street. He frequently commented that the pasture would make a beautiful golf course, and was fortunate to realize his dream when he won the Michigan Lottery in 1973 and used his winnings to become a founding partner of Prairie Creek Golf Course and Banquet Center.

John and Marilyn traveled throughout the United States, incorporating their love of dance and golf into their trips as much as possible. They traveled abroad to England, Italy, Austria, Germany, China, and Scotland, where John was thrilled to visit the Old Course at Saint Andrews.

Although he loved golfing, dancing, and travel, the most important thing in John’s life was his family. His love for his daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren was unconditional, and he lived his life in their service. Even when he and Marilyn began wintering in Florida, John made sure to be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and was almost always home for Easter. He was proud of his family. He was their biggest cheerleader and was always there to support them in every possible way.

Like his father before him, John loved to work with wood and was a skilled cabinet maker. Many family members are the proud recipients of his handiwork.

John was preceded in death by his parents, Mahlon and Lillian (Hopkins) Hiatt; his siblings, Mahlon Hiatt, Jr., Howard Hiatt (Laura), William Hiatt (Delores), Virginia Prince (Charles), and Merle Ellen Mailo (Otto); and his grandson, Stephen Purves.

He is survived by his wife of 72 years, Marilyn (Brownlee) Hiatt; his children, Sandra Hiatt (Rick Masters), Deborah Hiatt, Stephanie Hiatt, and Denice Hiatt Purves (Matthew Purves); his grandchildren, Matthew John Purves, David Purves, Christopher Purves, Christina Purves (Stephen), Rachel Purves, and Leslie (Masters) McAvoy; seven great-grandchildren; two great-great-grandchildren; and dozens of dearly loved nieces and nephews.

John’s family would like to thank the DeWitt McDonald's Coffee Group for the many visits, phone calls, and prayers. Your visits meant a lot to both Marilyn and John.

The family would like to acknowledge ELARA Home Care and Hospice for the wonderful care John received and extend our gratitude for the support extended to our family during his final days.

Charitable contributions to honor John’s memory may be sent to the DeWitt VFW Post 671, P.O. Box 378, DeWitt, MI 48820.


  • DeWitt VFW Post 671


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


John Henry Hiatt

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Becky VanSteenkiste

October 18, 2020

Please know that I’m praying for you as you walk this journey. Sending hugs.



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