Harold G. Hillebert
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Long time resident of Canton, Harold Gridley Hillebert died quietly at home Saturday October 6.
Born September 17, 1920 in Boliver, Louisiana to James Cecil and Fannie Annis Hillebert, both natives of Louisiana.
He was preceded in death by his wife Genie in 1991, and is survived by daughter, Dr. Susan Hillebert Smith, son-in-law, Barry G. Smith, granddaughter, Katherine D. Smith (Germantown TN), and sister, Hope Coup (Canton MS) and loved nephews and nieces. He was very proud of his family and especially enjoyed being a granddaddy.
The Hillebert family settled in Canton when Harold was ten years old, after living in several Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi locations as his father built roads. After high school graduation he attended Copiah-Lincoln Junior College and was in one of the first civil aviation classes the college offered. From there he entered WWII, becoming a B-24 Liberator bomber pilot in the Army Air Corps. As a First Lieutenant, he flew 238 combat hours over Europe and received credit for 50 missions in 1944 and 1945 (15th Air Force, 47th Wing, 450th Bombardment Group 720th Bombardment Squadron). Where he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and multiple Air Medals for piloting the B-24 Liberator Heavy Bomber conducting long-range strategic bombing missions against enemy targets in Italy, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and the Balkans until April 1945; bombing aircraft factories, assembly plants, oil refineries, storage areas, marshaling yards, airdromes, and other objectives until the German Surrender in May 1945.
After his Amy Air Corps service he completed a degree in general agriculture at Mississippi State College. He met his late wife, Genie, in Starkville at the Western Union office where she was manager. They were married after the Ole Miss Mississippi State football game in November 1947.
Upon graduation from Mississippi State they settled back to Madison County. He served as instructor of Veteran's On-Farm Training for seven years while he began his own cotton and dairy farm. After successfully operating a dairy business for 15 years he converted to a beef cattle operation and joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soil Conservation Service. There his previous teaching and farming experience was invaluable. He loved working with farmers and landowners to improve and protect the productivity of their land. Most of his years of service were in Rankin County. In his declining years he fondly talked of his friends there and recalled the hundreds of ponds and lakes, miles of terraces, and the dozens of lagoons and drainage projects that he engineered.
His life experiences and knowledge of agriculture and Madison and Rankin Counties, made him the go-to person for friends and family seeking advice and information about gardening, animal care, Canton history, stories of childhood and local characters. He was generous with advice as well as the produce from his prolific pecan, pear, and fig trees and flowers from his Confederate roses and camellias.
He and his wife Genie were loyal members of First Methodist Church, Canton, and served the church and community in many capacities through the years.
Visitation will be today from 5 - 7 pm at Breeland Funeral Home. Visitation will resume at 1 pm on Monday at First United Methodist Church until the 2 pm funeral service. Burial will be in the Canton Cemetery.
An online guestbook is available at www.breelandfuneralhome.com.
Published in Clarion Ledger on Oct. 7, 2012