James M. Obergfell, 70, a lifelong Indianapolis resident, passed away July 14, 2021, after suffering an acute heart attack, followed by a brief hospitalization. Jim was born December 26, 1950, to the late Norman and Joan (Patrick) Obergfell. His mother died at a young age, and the family was blessed by being blended with the Wilson family when Norm wed Peg Wilson in 1964. In true Brady Bunch fashion, each brought 5 children to the marriage, making a total of ten kids in the Obergfell/Wilson family.
Survivors include his only child, Anna (Clark) Kirkman; grandsons, Gabriel and Quinn; former spouse Nancy Lorenzano; siblings, Joseph (Fay) Obergfell, Dolores Obergfell, Dennis (Barb) Obergfell and Mary Jo Baecher-Kennelly, David (Sherlee) Wilson, Donald Wilson, Michael (Karen) Wilson, Bob Wilson, brother-in-law Bob Nester; a host of nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by a sister, Sharon Nester and sister-in-law Linda Wilson.
Jim attended St. Philip Neri Catholic School and graduated from Scecina Memorial High School in 1969. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in 1978. Jim taught, mentored, counseled and nurtured thousands of young people as the senior religion teacher at Cathedral High School, a position he held from 1978-2009. Father Kelley personally hired Jim, a memory Jim was fond of sharing. From a humble classroom (that had a chalkboard and no air conditioning for many years), Room 208, Jim shaped the minds, hearts, and souls of his students. It was in this sacred space that he gave himself completely to students, families and fellow educators. It was a calling for him to teach about social justice, death and dying, love, war and peace. During his time at Cathedral, he was elected by the students to offer the commencement address six times, and he became an honorary graduate of Cathedral High School alongside the class of 1992. He was inducted into Cathedral’s Circle of Excellence with the inaugural class in 2019 in recognition of his selfless and enduring contributions.
Jim later worked for the Riley Children’s Foundation for 10 years and served as the Executive Director at the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home. He was recognized for his hard work, wisdom, and diligence in leading the effort to construct the Billie Lou Wood Visitor Center adjacent to the Museum Home. This second career was a perfect fit for Jim in his beloved Lockerbie neighborhood, where he and Nancy renovated an 1880s home at 413 N. Park and pioneered downtown living. They worked alongside friends, family, and students to restore the cottage, and Jim resided there for 35 years.
Above all, Jim was a loving husband, father, and an incredibly proud grandfather. With the arrival of Anna and Clark’s children, Gabriel James and Quinn Patrick, Jim’s eyes twinkled like never before. Both bearing names that had a special connection to Jim, the boys were bonded to their grandpa from day one. Quinn looks so much like Jim did as a child, and Gabe has the natural athleticism that Jim had as a young boy. He loved them so deeply and will continue watching over them.
He was a scholar, a poet and author, a historian, and voracious reader. He loved his music, was meticulous about the Lockerbie garden, and was always up for a drive to Brown County, especially in the fall. He never turned down an opportunity to visit the University of Notre Dame or cheer for the New York Yankees. Even after retirement, he stayed connected to former students and their families, always taking a sincere interest in their lives and well-being, and we are so blessed that he shared his many gifts with us.
Jim’s Life Celebration® Visitation will be Monday, July 19, 2021, 4 to 8 p.m., in the Welch Activity Center at Cathedral High School 5225 E. 56th Street. Additional visitation will be Tuesday, July 20, 2021, 9 to 10 a.m., in SS Peter & Paul Cathedral, 1347 N. Meridian St. The Mass of Christian Burial will begin at 10 a.m., with burial following is St. Joseph Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. Philip Neri Catholic School, Cathedral High School or to the Riley Children’s Foundation. O’Riley Funeral Home is serving the family. Visit www.ORileyFuneralHome.com to share a favorite memory or to sign the online guest registry.
Non-vaccinated guests are kindly asked to wear masks for the safety of everyone.