A motorcycle stands among he effects that marked the April 12 remembrance for La Jollan Bob Hildt.
On the solemn occasion of a community memorial for Rob Hildt, Bird Rock neighbor and friend Steve Dowdy recalled a political “battle” between the diehard conservative Republican and his liberal daughter.
“I’m a professor, and I lean a little to the left. Rob was a Ronald Reagan Republican,” said Dowdy, noting Rob and his daughter, an Obama supporter, got into a campaign sign war during the McCain-Obama race in 2008.
“He got McCain campaign signs for his lawn,” Dowdy said, “and she got an Obama sticker that was half an inch bigger that she easily slipped over the McCain signs. So it was solid Democrats going up his driveway. He realized, ‘This girl has to go.’ So not to be outdone, he got two more McCain signs, which she now matched with five Obama signs. Finally, they each called for a truce and agreed to go back to having just three signs each.
“But she gave the other two to the next-door neighbor,” Dowdy said. “Rob was just glad the election was over—no matter who won.”
Hildt’s public remembrance was held April 12 at La Jolla Community Center. He died March 25 after a long bout with cancer. He was 56.
A Los Angeles native and a career banker, Hildt formed two community banks for which he served as president and CEO. He was a longtime trustee and first vice president of La Jolla Town Council and a member of the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Committee, the La Jolla Christmas Parade Committee and the La Jolla Community Center.
A Vietnam veteran, Hildt was awarded the Army commendation for meritorious service and was buried at Fort Rosecrans Cemetery.
At his public memorial, Hildt’s pastor, Walt Dilge of La Jolla United Methodist Church, said, “We’re all here to celebrate the gift that Rob was to all of us, remembering how his special qualities added to our community and personal lives.”
“Rob has finished his race,” said his sister. “He has fought the good fight, and he did it courageously. Rob's loving spirit moves us.”
Hildt’s wife, Deborah, recalled she was “impressed by him in his suit” at their first meeting, noting “he seemed older than the other men in the room.”
Deborah said Hildt tore off the end of a sheet of paper to write her phone number down. She found the memorabilia recently, while “going through his effects in a safe deposit box.
“He was always the romantic, and the rest is a very happy history,” Deborah said.
Hildt’s daughter, Natalie, read poignant personal cards she sent him on his birthday and on Veterans and Valentine’s days.
“There aren’t enough hours in the day to express my admiration for my father,” she said. “I’m so lucky to have had such a great, supportive, loving father.”
Bob Veres said that Hildt was a true friend and that they’d known each other a long time.
“The most remarkable thing about Rob was that everybody he talked with — there was a connection between him and them,” he said.
Ruth Yansick, La Jolla Community Center CEO, said, “Rob had a purpose in life,” adding that “every day he made it like his last day, opening up his heart to his family, his church and his community.”
Yansick said Hildt was a “gentle soul” with a “great sense of humor.”
La Jolla Town Council immediate past president Cindy Greatrex said she was lucky to have had Hildt as a colleague.
”How does the scenario happen where you have someone on your board who was once a CEO and a banker handling the operations of Walmart?” Greatrex asked. “Never.”
Greatrex pointed out Hildt took the annual La Jolla Christmas parade to a higher level.
“For 53 years, the parade was simply a parade,” she said. “Rob and Ann Kerr had the great idea of forming a foundation and turning the La Jolla Christmas parade into the La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival.”
Greatex noted that, thanks to Hildt and Kerr, the festival, at the La Jolla Recreation Center following the parade, now has a whole new dimension children's bands onstage, art and music classes and former council treasurer Sonia Olivas teaching kids the harp.
“Each year, the class offerings grow,” she said. “Everything is free, paid by the foundation.”
The uplifting remembrance ended with closing remarks and a toast by Hildt friend Javier Lorenzo.