Carl Hilker Jr, 81, passed away on his Mason farm Thursday Feb 20th. Those that knew him well called him by the nickname “Hege”. He leaves behind his wife, Cathryn, their son, Carl, and two granddaughters.
The love of Carl’s life was flying. Being airborne was in his DNA. Anything that afforded lift into the sky he either flew or wished he had – from planes and gliders of all shapes/sizes, to helicopters and hot air balloons. He was also an avid skydiver who once jumped out of the back of a decommissioned 727 with a group of like-mind parachutists to commemorate a famous bank robber who had used such an exploit to escape capture. Had he lived in the pioneering era of the barnstormers in biplanes, there is little doubt he would have been the first up in the morning and the last to leave the sky when only the darkness could bring him down.
Later in life, fueled by his wife Cathryn’s career in wildlife conservation, Carl became an avid supporter – in both time and money. In the 90s, Cathryn’s conservation efforts increasingly focused on Cheetahs and their conservation in the African country of Namibia, which has the largest remaining population of Cheetah’s in the wild. With Carl’s conceptual and financial support, the two of them were able to buy an initial large parcel of land (and later a 2nd parcel) that could be an in-country beachhead for conservation efforts to save these big cats in the wild. It was this purchase that helped establish what is now the largest conservancy effort to protect and study Cheetahs in the wild - the Cheetah Conservation Fund, run by Dr. Laurie Marker.
Contributing to such an effort appealed to Carl’s sensibility to be both part of something larger then himself and to contribute in a way that was unique. On the Namibian farm, one of his pet projects was to build a large airfield in the bush with a hanger and aviation fuel for his or other planes that may be used in the conservation effort.
To say Carl was eccentric was a bit of an understatement. He lived life on his own terms, marched to his own beat, and found joy in pursuits of life that others give up for more “traditional” paths of contentment. Yet, it was the eccentric way that he found his joy that ultimately is remembered most and appreciated by those he leaves behind.
A celebration of Carl’s life will be held this coming Thursday Feb 25th at the Cincinnati Zoo - Harold C. Schott Education Building
Entrance: Erkenbrecker Gate, on Erkenbrecker Avenue
Time 5:30pm - 8:00pm
Beverages & light food will be offered
Thursday, February 25, 2016
5:30 PM - 8:00 PM
The Cincinnati Zoo-Harold C. Schott Education Building
3400 Vine St. (Erkenbrecker Gate, on Erkenbrecker Avenue)
Cincinnati, Ohio 45220