Jill C. Hirai Passes Away; Lifelong Sitkan Was 44

Jill Champney Hirai

Jill Champney Hirai, a lifelong Sitka resident and beloved community member, passed away peacefully on April 18, 2024, at the age of 44 with her family by her side.
Jill was born December 7, 1979, in Sitka, where she was raised with her brother Jeremy, and sisters Jolene and Jennie.
Those closest to Jill knew her as genuine, loyal, creative, and fun. Jill carried a quiet confidence, but quiet she was not. She had a great sense of humor coupled with a contagious laugh.
Jill’s earliest love was writing stories and she was a captivating storyteller, always hitting the punchline just right. Jill enjoyed helping people, playing softball, movie nights with her kids, Otter Pops (grape), camping trips, running and spending time with family.
She was strong-willed and stubborn, never running from a challenge or giving up. She was a fierce defender of her loved ones, and she never let her small stature stop her from righting a wrong, or putting a bully in his place.
Jill always had a talent for design and a humanitarian heart. These qualities led her to study interior design and housing studies at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
She moved back to Sitka after college and launched a career doing work that she loved, designing and building homes. Jill remained dedicated to her craft to the end, designing a client’s house until shortly before she passed away.
Jill was deeply involved with the local Community Land Trust, working to create affordable housing for future generations of Sitkans.
An outdoor lover through and through, she enjoyed spending time camping, boating, hiking or riding 4- wheelers.
Jill loved her dogs. She was a Rhodesian Ridgeback Mom who enjoyed taking her dog, Chilli, on walks through the cross trails of Sitka, typically with brother Jeremy’s dog, Sherman, and sister Jolene’s dog, Maisey, in tow. She would grab whoever she could to join her, be it her dad, sisters, brother, nieces, nephews or her boys.
Most of all, Jill lived for her boys. She cherished being the mother to her three sons, Kai, 16, Koen, 13, and Jase, 8.
Jill was a regular fixture at their basketball, baseball and soccer games and was ever present for all their pursuits. She was their biggest fan, supporting and encouraging them to strive to be their best.
Jill’s biggest fan, her husband Jarrett, has been her champion and rock for nearly 30 years. One day while in junior high school, Jill came home from school more excited than her mother had ever seen. Jill confided that Jarrett Hirai told her he liked her, and she told him she liked him, too. They were married July 1, 2005, and were inseparable from that day forward.
Jill was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in early July 2023. Her tenacity and will helped her the last 10 months of her life as she fought to survive an aggressive cancer. Jill never wavered, navigating successive treatments with grace and humor, staying optimistic with Jarrett at her side. They braved the fight together, as they always have, until the fight was over.
Jill leaves a legacy of care – for family, friends, community, and Sitka – that inspires her friends and family.
Jill is survived by her husband Jarrett Hirai and her sons Kai, Koen, and Jase.
She also is survived by her mother, Shari Wyman (Ed) of Port Townsend, Washington; her father, Jim Phillips, of Sitka; and her siblings Jeremy (Janet) Phillips and Jolene (Jeff) Helem of Sitka and Jennie (Chris) Kobus of Everett, Washington.
Her grandfather, Henry Grant of Seqium, Washington; mother- and father-in-law Mike and Marcia Hirai; sister- in-law Reiko (Peter) Horst; brother-in-law Derek Hirai of Sitka; nieces Taylor Helem, Everly and GrayLynn Kobus, Payton and Emily Horst; nephews James and Kenny Helem, Ezra Phillips and Henry Kobus also survive.
The Hirai, Phillips, and Wyman family thanked friends and the community of Sitka and beyond, for all the love and support they’ve shown this past year.
“From the kind phone calls and text messages, Go Fund Me donations, and the Elks Lodge fundraiser dinner and auction, to the delicious dinners throughout the year and walks with Jill’s beloved Chilli, you all have helped our family during this difficult time,” a family member said.

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July 2004
Photo caption: Junior League All Stars will compete in a tournament in Wrangell. From left are Bryn Calhoun, Chris Scott, Sean O’Neill, Ross Venneberg, Caleb McGraw, Richard Carlos, Jacob Houston, Coby McCarty, Bryan Lovett and Daniel Erickson.


July 1974

Photo caption: Volunteers leave the Yaw Building Library with loads of books being transferred to the new Orin and Betty Stratton Library on the Sheldon Jackson campus. SJC librarian Evelyn Bonner expressed appreciation to the community for the help.


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