Obituary for Robert Ellis Hillberg
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Robert Ellis Hillberg

September 30, 1920 ~ April 6, 2016 (age 95)

Robert E. Hillberg - 95 years   September 30, 1920 - April 6, 2016

Robert Ellis Hillberg was born on September 30, 1920, to Helen Nedra (Antrim) Hillberg and her husband Robert Christian Hillberg, in the little mining town of Anyox, British Columbia, Canada. Little Robert – usually referred to as Bob – joined two older sisters, Alice and Phyllis, who were daughters of Helen from a previous marriage. Two years later another baby boy, Donald, was born. About that time the family returned to Washington State and Robert C. and Helen divorced. Bob was taken in and raised by his grandparents, Ellis and Sarah Jane Hillberg in Eatonville, Washington. Baby Donald was adopted and his name became Donald Little. Bob and Donald didn’t know they were brothers until they were teenagers. Grandpa and Grandma Hillberg owned and lived on a dairy farm, and when Bob was around 11 years old, his job was to help milk the cows each day before and after school. Bob was always interested in tinkering with and building mechanical things, and he did that all his life.

Just before Bob finished eighth grade, Grandma died suddenly from a heart attack. Soon after her death Grandpa and Bob moved into a small house in the nearby town of Parkland, Washington and Grandpa married a widow named Mary Pierce. Bob and his step-grandma got along well. After two years of high school and a temporary stint with the Civilian Conservation Corps, Bob got a job working at the Indian motorcycle dealership and delivery service in Tacoma, working as a mechanic and making deliveries. Bob always remembered December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed and President Roosevelt declared war. By the summer of 1941 Bob was working at the U.S. Army Ordinance Depot in Tacoma as a mechanic, fixing military motorcycles. He was drafted into the army in August 1943 and served in France, Germany and Austria as a jeep driver. The army returned him to Ft. Lewis, Washington in June 1946 where he was honorably discharged. Bob continued his employment at the Army Ordinance Depot in Tacoma, and then decided to team up with another motorcycle mechanic to start a repair shop. That lasted about a year until Bob decided to take advantage of the G.I. Bill and enrolled at Clover Park Vocational School, taking the Aircraft Engine and Mechanics curriculum.

When finished with school, Bob drove to Southern California hoping to find work. One of his aunts, Mary Little, lived in the Los Angeles area. Bob did find a job. He was hired as a mechanic at Los Angeles Airways which operated a helicopter flight service. Eventually Bob met a young woman who was attending the same Seventh-day Adventist church as Aunt Mary. Her name was Emma Palady. At first they were casual friends and Emma moved back to her family in Pennsylvania. But there was some correspondence between them. After two more years Emma moved back to Los Angeles and she and Bob started courting and Bob became a member of the church. They were married in 1954. Two daughters came along, Janice and Carol. Not being pleased with the dangers of living in the Los Angeles area, Bob looked for work in a new setting. He found employment with Frakes Aviation, a company located in the Napa Valley of Northern California. This company specialized in refurbishing turbine engine airplanes. In the summer of 1969, the family moved to St. Helena, California.

By 1974, Frakes Aviation moved to a central area of the country near Dallas – the small town of Cleburne, Texas. Bob decided to relocate the family to Texas and continue working for Frakes Aviation. Bob and Emma were in Texas for 20 years. During this time Bob became more creative in tinkering with things he could make to sell. He always had tools in the garage and it became his workshop at home. Bob retired from Frakes Aviation about 1986.

After a few years Bob and Emma felt that as they got older, it would be a good idea to live near their daughters. In November 1993, they moved to their own new house in Clackamas, Oregon. For Bob, it was like moving back home. They became members of Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church, and Bob was a deacon for as long has he could pass the offering plate. This was their final church "home." Soon Bob decided to purchase a camper and take Emma on a long trip around the United States to visit family and friends. They had a wonderful time.

In 2005, at age 85, Bob needed a new heart valve, which meant open heart surgery. He survived the procedure and it added eleven years to his life. Early in 2014 Bob decided to move to an apartment in Somerset Lodge in Gladstone, Oregon, a senior community just a few miles from their house. By this time Emma’s health had declined, and she passed away in December of 2014, at age 97. Although Bob’s health was also declining, he managed to continue driving through his 94th year. In February of 2016 Bob knew he was too weak to stay in his apartment, and chose to relocate to a private care home in Clackamas. He had his own bedroom and a recliner by the living room window. For two months he suffered from prostate cancer with headaches and back pain that was difficult to manage with medications. He passed away on April 6, 2016, age 95. Bob and Emma are at rest in Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon, waiting to greet the Lord when He comes in the clouds.

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