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Published: Monday, 12/27/2004

Lifelong farmer was hunting enthusiast

DELTA, Ohio - Adrian H. Hildreth, who farmed in Fulton County for more than 70 years and enjoyed hunting well into his 80s, died Tuesday in Toledo Hospital. He was 93.

Tammy Meyer, Mr. Hildreth's granddaughter, said he died of congestive heart failure after being ill for about a month and a half.

Mr. Hildreth grew corn, soybeans, and wheat on his Delta-area farm until he was 90. "I think he was brought up that way, and he saw no real reason to retire," Ms. Meyer said. "He knew nothing else."

Mr. Hildreth was born Nov. 26, 1911, in Fulton County to William Donald Hildreth and Ada Mae (Horton) Hildreth, the second oldest of thirteen children.

Ms. Meyer said her grandfather grew up on his parents' farm and dropped out of high school as a freshman when his father left the family. At that time, he became a full-time farmer.

"His mother was left with taking care of 13 kids, so he quit school to keep the family going," Ms. Meyer said.

Her grandfather never saw his father after that, she added.

"He just kind of left the family, and no one ever heard from him again," she said. "He wondered from time to time what happened to him, but he also had some fond memories of his dad."

The departure of his father and his sudden shift from student to full-time farmer had a profound effect on Mr. Hildreth, Ms. Meyer said.

"He always looked after people," she said. "When his brothers died, I could see him where he felt protective of his sisters-in-law; or when his brothers-in-law died, he would always take on that protective brother's role and make sure [his sisters] were doing OK. He always took responsibility seriously."

During his early years as a farmer, Mr. Hildreth grew such crops as sugar beets and raised sheep, pigs, and horses.

Ms. Meyer said he was a dedicated fox and racoon hunter who belonged to the Lytton Fox Hunters Club. While he gave up fox hunting in his later years, he had open-heart surgery in 1995 in part so he could continue racoon hunting.

"He was still hunting into his 80s, but not as often as he would have liked," she said.

A lover of horses, Mr. Hildreth kept as many as 20 at one time and enjoyed watching harness races each year at the Fulton County Fair, his granddaughter said.

Mr. Hildreth also loved sports and coached a fast-pitch girls softball team that was affiliated with the fox hunting club in the 1950s and 1960s, Ms. Meyer said. He was an avid fan of the Detroit Tigers, following the baseball team's games on radio and TV.

Surviving are his daughter, Elizabeth Vaculik; sisters, Grace "Bonnie" Merillat, Colleen "Cork" Borck, Ella Mae Sparks, Bette Noonan, and Beatrice Myers; three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be held after 2 p.m. today in the Wells Funeral Home, Waterville. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow in the funeral home.

The family requests tributes to the American Heart Association or a charity of the donor's choice.

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