Orlan Hilburn

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Orlan Lavaughn Hilburn, "Von," was born to CE and Pearl Hilburn on July 11, 1929, in Shannon, Texas. His family moved to Lovington, N,M., in 1938 where his father was a storekeeper and sheep rancher. Too young for military service during World War II, Von did his part by participating in salvage drives and working at the local army base. At age 17 Von attended Bible College in Milford, Texas, where he met fellow student Jimmie Lee Messer. Upon graduating he returned to Lovington and after several unsatisfactory attempts to stay in touch with the lovely Jimmie, he wrote and proposed. She said yes and two weeks after his 18th birthday they were married. It was to be a union that lasted 65 years and produced four daughters, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. After returning to Lovington, Von supported his new bride by working days in the oil fields and nights at the cotton gin. His first daughter, Frances, was born in 1948. Early in 1949 he moved his young family to Gaines County, Texas, and began farming. It was here that he built the first of many family homes over the years. This first house was a small structure with no electricity, plumbing or running water. Second daughter, Patricia, was welcomed in 1950. In 1951 Von sold the farm in Gaines County moving his growing family back to Lovington where he purchased a new farm. There he built a number of rental houses and the family's second home, a three-bedroom complete with all the utilities this time! In 1953 Von moved his family west to Bowie, Ariz., where he farmed and ranched. Third daughter Virginia arrived in May of that year. The community of Bowie welcomed the newcomers with open arms and they formed many lifelong friends in the small but vibrant community. Local merchants were happy to extend credit to the young man in whom they recognized the talent, work ethic and integrity that were to characterize his entire life. In 1955 Von moved his family into the new yellow home he had built. With the birth of fourth daughter Kathy the family was complete (after realizing that a son was not in the cards). Von was active in many aspects of life in Bowie: Lions Club, Bowie Methodist Church and the Bowie public schools, with Von serving eight years as school board president. Restless for new opportunities, Von pulled up stakes once more in 1967, this time to Hatch, N.M. The Las Uvas Valley ranch and farms provided the challenge and opportunity that he always sought. Once again, Von and Jimmie soon made strong friendships and became valued members of the Hatch community. In 1980 Von, along with daughter Frances and son-in-law Dean Horton, began operation of the Las Uvas Valley Dairy. Von was a lifelong learner. He loved to travel, both here and abroad. His travels with Jimmie, as well as various friends and grandchildren, included Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Europe and South America. On an Alaskan cruise he even took a helicopter ride to stand on an iceberg! Perhaps his favorite mode of travel, however, was to just get in the car and go. Jimmie was adept at packing a travel bag at a moment's notice when Von got the itch to go on a road trip! Von was an innovative and respected business man. Employees, merchants and others in the business community knew him as an honest and fair man. Although often not a demonstrative man, he loved his family and was a steadfast and devoted husband and father. Preceded in death by his beloved wife, Jimmie, parents, brother Verlon, and sister Darlene. Von is survived by his brothers Bill Hilburn and Jerry Hilburn, daughters Frances (Dean) Horton of Hatch, N.M., Patricia Hilburn of San Diego, Calif., Virginia (Steve) Compton of Mesa, Ariz., Katherine (Larry) Sulkowski of Tucson, Arizona, and grandchildren Sharla Hilburn, Loren Horton, Mitchell Horton, Leslie Horton Mehigan, Vaughn Compton, Ben Compton and Barrett Sulkowski. Von also had six great-grandchildren, along with many nieces, nephews, and dear friends. Viewing will be Friday, Aug. 23, 2013, at La Paz-Graham Funeral from 2 to 5 p.m. Funeral services will be Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, at the First Baptist Church at 10 a.m. in Hatch.
Funeral Home
La Paz - Graham's Funeral Home - Las Cruces
555 West Amador  Las Cruces, NM 88005
575-526-6891
Published in Las Cruces Sun-News on Aug. 21, 2013
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