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Geraldine (McDonough) Hilmes

Hilmes, Geraldine (McDonough) SARASOTA, Fla. Geraldine McDonough Hilmes, age 76, was taken by our Lord on Wednesday January 16, 2013 in Sarasota. Geri, a devout Catholic, was born in Albany, N.Y. to Jim and Helen McDo nough. The oldest of three, Geri graduated high school in Albany and studied at Albany State Teachers College. Geri met Jerry Hilmes at West Point, N.Y. in 1956. The couple married in Albany in 1959 before moving to Hanau, Germany for Jerry's first assignment as an Army officer. The Berlin Wall went up during this time, and Geri became very familiar with evacuation drills. Unfazed by the realities of overseas Army life during the Cold War, Geri came to fall in love with the Army during this tour, becoming active with numerous spouse support groups. Bruce was born in 1960, followed by Gary in 1961. After transferring back to the United States and Iowa State University in 1962, Doug arrived in 1963. Doug was diagnosed with a Wilms Tumor in 1967 - 99% fatal in those days. Geri took Doug, alone, to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C., in an area literally burning down due to the fierce racial riots marking that period of our history. She lived there with Doug for almost two months, fighting and winning the battle to save his young life. Geri had cemented her role as a resilient Army wife. Vibrant and vivacious, a devoted wife, mother and steadfast friend, Geri lived the rest of her adult life alongside her husband, supporting him and their four sons (with Andy arriving in 1972) while developing lifelong friendships. She orchestrated 27 moves around the world during their 33 year Army journey, keeping morale up and the family together as her sons left yet another school and sports team for new ones. Geri made them "bloom where they were planted," ensuring they would be ready for the challenges of life. She handled the rigors and uncertainty of raising a young family by herself, with grace and a genuine focus on selfless service, while Jerry served two one-year combat tours in Vietnam and participated in countless month-long training exercises around the world. While stationed at West Point, Geri was active in the faculty wives club and the American Red Cross. She was a Cub Scout den leader and volunteer service provider to a special geriatrics ward at the VA center near Ft Leavenworth, Kan. She served many roles in Germany as an Army commander's wife. As the "first lady" of the command, Geri helped thousands of soldiers and their family members within our military communities, focusing on quality of life issues. She furthered German-American relations, forming a German-American youth soccer team. Geri was awarded the Helping Hand Award there, for her service to the community. While in the Washington D.C. area, she served as a member of the Arlington Ladies, representing the Chief of Staff of the Army at hundreds of Army funerals over 10 years, touching the hearts of many survivors. During Operation Desert Storm, Geri worked tirelessly at the Army Family Liaison Office (FLO), helping families of soldiers in Iraq, especially Reservists, whose families faced more challenges. She could relate to those challenges, as her eldest son, Bruce, was leading a tank company during the operation. Geri's efforts resulted in numerous leader spouses joining the FLO effort, and she was recognized with the Army Public Service Award. Geri's lifetime was characterized by her generous gift of time, advice, love and humor to others. She was as beautiful on the inside as she was pretty on the outside. Geri loved to host parties and entertain family and friends, which she did - ranging from Members of Congress to privates with nowhere to go for Christmas - over the 33 years in the Army. She also relished her membership in and accumulated friendships from the Engineers Wives Club, Signal Officers Wives Club and DC Women's Club. She received awards from the Chief of Staff of the Army and others for her unselfish support and devotion to duty to the people in or relevant to various commands and communities. But the best "awards" were from other military spouses and soldiers who were so grateful and respectful of the assistance she provided them. Geri's proudest achievement was serving as the lifelong guide for her four sons, keeping them in check and on azimuth to a life of success and personal fulfillment, with all four achieving graduate degrees. Three of them would go on to serve careers as Armor officers in the Army, with Bruce and Gary retiring from active duty as lieutenant colonels with a combined 46 years of service. The youngest, Andy, is currently a lieutenant colonel, commanding a cavalry squadron in the 3rd Infantry Division. Doug is a successful businessman and former telecommunications executive. Geri is survived by Jerry, husband of 53 years; Bruce and family, Di, Chris and Megan; Gary and family, Sabine, Ryan and Angelique; Doug and family, Jean, Alex and Ashley; and Andy and family, Nikki, Jocelyn, Andrew Jr. and Madison. She leaves a brother, Jim and a sister, Joan Spear, both of Albany, N.Y. She also leaves numerous nieces and nephews in the East, Midwest and South. She is remembered and deeply loved by all her family and friends for her caring giving nature. The family will receive friends Sunday evening, January 20, 2013 from 5 until 7 o'clock at Toale Brothers Funeral Home - 40 North Orange Ave., Sarasota. The funeral Mass will be held Monday morning at 10 o'clock at St. Martha's Catholic Church. The interment will be at 1 o'clock Monday afternoon at Sarasota National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure at www.abc2.org or Autism Speaks at www.autismspeaks.org.

Published in Albany Times Union on Jan. 20, 2013
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