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Anglers of the Au Sable
PO Box 200
Grayling, MI 49738
Life Story / Obituary
David Hilton was a loving husband, dedicated father, caring grandfather, and a wonderful friend to all who knew him. Active throughout his life, he made the most of each and every moment. He modeled a lifetime of showing compassion towards others and his wonderful collection of memories will remain dear to his family and special friends for years to come.
David’s story begins in the year 1940. The effects of the Great Depression were finally beginning to ease, yet there was tension in Europe when Germany invaded France. The feel-good feeling of leaving the depression led to the release of major motion pictures such as, "Gone With the Wind." Jazz music boomed with the likes of Benny Goodman and Count Basie. Maxwell Roth and Bertha Usborne Hilton welcomed home their firstborn son, David William on July 25th in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His birth brought much happiness into their loving home.
Growing up first on Ardmore and then on Griswold Street, Dave lived a typical childhood of the times. His father owned Hilton Drug Store on the corner of Burton and Eastern and his mother was a nurse before she became a homemaker. He and his younger brother, Jim, enjoyed spending time outdoors getting into their fair share of mischief. A talented musician, Dave played the drums in his high school band and held his first job at his father’s drug store. After graduating from Ottawa Hills High School with the Class of 1958, Dave enlisted in United States Navy and proudly served his country from 1959 thru 1963 aboard the USS Maloy and the USS Joseph P. Kennedy in the Atlantic Ocean. After his time on the sea, he committed to two more years in the reserves.
While stationed in Boston, Massachusetts he met his dear wife, Rosemary “Sue” Johnson at a USO Club. Lucky in love, they joined in marriage in October of 1964 at the Church of the Advent in Boston. Discharged from active duty, Dave and Sue relocated to a home on the corner of 32nd and Homecrest back in his hometown of Grand Rapids. He took a job as a delivery driver for Steketee’s and ended up working there for fifteen years. They were blessed with a beautiful daughter, Kathi. As a family, they enjoyed spending time at his parents' cottage on Wolf Lake. At the cottage he enjoyed lounging in the hammock and taking Sue and Kathi out on the boat to fish. They also enjoyed annual family trips to visit Sue’s family and friends back in Machias, Maine and once took a memorable train trip down the west coast from Seattle to Disney Land. When Steketee’s eliminated it’s home delivery service he became a bus driver for GRATA - the Grand Rapids Area Transit Authority - where he drove for 27 years before retiring with an excellent safety record.
Sadly, his wife, Sue, passed away suddenly in February of 1991. He leaned on the support of his family and friends as well as the peaceful tranquility of his favorite pastime of fishing to see him through the difficult time.
Fly fishing and fly tying were indeed his greatest and most rewarding pleasures. Dave was very involved with various local clubs and attended countless meetings over the years. His favorite local spot to fish was the Rogue River, but he was happiest when he took his fishing buddy, a Samoyed named Lucki, up north to fish the “holy water” stretch of the Au Sable River. Any material written or recorded on the sport of fly fishing Dave was known to own, have watched, or have read cover to cover. There simply wasn’t anything he didn’t know about the sport! Passionate about his craft of tying flies, he tied dozens for charitable groups each year and kept a special go kit loaded with his favorite travel vice and supplies. He was pleased to introduce many area youth to the sport including children with disabilities.
A year or so after Sue passed away Dave met Dee Smith through a mutual friend. They fell in love and spent the next twenty-six years enjoying one another’s company. He adored her children and as their family grew to include grandchildren as well as great-grandchildren they were delighted. He and Dee enjoyed taking road trips up north to the Au Sable River in Grayling or as far as Michigan’s pristine Upper Peninsula. They also enjoyed frequenting their favorite restaurants, The Olive Garden and Red Lobster where but his favorite food was Deb’s carrot cake. Though not much of a sports fan, he rarely missed the Kentucky Derby or an Army/Navy football game over the years. He enjoyed watching M.A.S.H. as well as tuning in to big band music from his generation and watching videos of marching bands on YouTube.
Dave was a man of great integrity and generosity. He quietly donated to many favorite causes over the years including the DeVos Children’s Hospital, the USS Silversides, and Feeding America, and the Anglers of the Au Sable. After surviving a five-way bypass in 2000, Dave later developed congestive heart failure. Although his health began to decline afterward, he soldiered on. Dave’s wonderful sense of humor and practical outlook on life will be his greatest gifts to those he leaves behind. Described as charmingly irascible, generous, and caring, there is no doubt that he will be deeply missed by his loved ones.
David William Hilton, aged 78, of Grand Rapids, passed away on Sunday, January 27, 2019, at Edison Christian Home, with his loving family at his side. The son of the late Maxwell and Bertha Hilton, he was also preceded in death by his wife, Rosemary “Sue” Hilton. He is survived by his daughter, Katie (Duane) Weller; his brother, Jim Hilton (Anita Benes); his companion of 26 years, Dee Smith, and her children, Deb (Mark) Breen, Susan (Mark) Ostrum, Paul (Sheree) Smith, Patti (Chris) Holiday; one nephew and many friends. David honorably served his country in the US Navy. He was an avid fly fisherman and member of Anglers of the Au Sable, Grand River Fly Tyers, and Trout Unlimited. He will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered for his passion and wonderful sense of humor. A service to celebrate Dave’s life will be held on Friday, February 1, 2019, at 2:00 pm at Heritage Lifestory Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Burial in Rosedale Cemetery. Relatives and friends may meet his family on Friday from 1:00 pm until the service begins at 2:00 pm. Contributions may be made to Anglers of the Au Sable or The American Diabetes Assn. To sign David’s guest book and to leave your own memory of him, visit his web page at www.lifestorynet.com