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Hilley Obituary
John Patrick Hilley, 58, lifelong resident of Las Cruces passed away, Sunday, July 14, 2013 at his home surrounded by his family. He was born Nov. 13, 1954, at Memorial General Hospital in Las Cruces. As a youth, he lived in Lordsburg, Tucumcari, Springer and Raton and graduated from Raton High School in 1973. Upon graduating from high school, John joined the U.S. Coast Guard, and served in Alameda, California; Honolulu, Hawaii; Hokkaido, Japan and Port Isabel, Texas. During his year on the island of Hokkaido, he developed an admiration for the Japanese culture and formed a friendship with members of the Ainu, an indigenous tribe at Lake Akan. He was deeply impressed by their skill as wood carvers. While stationed in Port Isabel, he was bosons mate and was often responsible for piloting a 44-foot "unsinkable boat" on dangerous rescue missions in the Gulf of Mexico. "During the good weather, everybody is going out," he said. "During the bad weather, everybody is coming in and we're going out." On one rescue, a mission with two crew members, John recalled the 44-foot boat being rolled. "I stuck my head out of the side window," he said. "For a moment, my head was the only thing above water. My crew was under water." They all returned to shore safely. John attended New Mexico State University and received a bachelor's degree in anthropology in 1983. After working as an archaeologist for Cultural Resource Management Division of NMSU and Human Systems Research, he served as a fireman with the Las Cruces Fire Department. He returned to NMSU for further studies, obtaining certification as a teacher and being employed by the Gadsden Independent School District teaching at Gadsden Middle School and Chaparral High School. After retirement, he lived in Costa Rica and Thailand where he met his wife. Throughout his many different careers and travels, he always worked to serve his fellow man and women. John was a man of many talents. He combined a keen eye and love for nature, an abundance of artistic talent, and a deep well of patience to be a painter and a guitar maker, as well as a carver of exquisite decoys and bird sculptures that were sold all over the United States. John was also a boat builder, crafting a twenty-five foot sailboat and traditional canoes. John once said, "Everyone has a gift, something you're intended to do, and that becomes our gift to our fellow man". Survivors include his wife, Pimchanok Chot of Chaing Rai District, Thailand, who came to him as a great blessing during his most difficult time; his daughter, Rachel Leann Hilley; his son Jacob Patrick Hilley; brothers, Terry Earl Hilley, Jr. and wife Jeri, James "Jim" Hilley; sister Glenda Fae Hilley and husband Stephen "Tay" Milner; nephews, Jeremiah Hilley, John D. Hilley, and Isaac Milner; nieces, Naomi Hilley and Sarah Milner; the mother of his children, Carol Gourley Steffen. John was preceded in death by his father, Terry Earl Hilley, Sr. and mother, Adra Fay Bumgarner Hilley. At John's request cremation has taken place. He was honored in a Buddhist service in Thailand by Pim and her family. He will be remembered by his friends and family at a private ceremony in Las Cruces. The family is requesting that donations may be made to Mesilla Valley Hospice, 299 E. Montana Avenue, Las Cruces, NM 88005 whom provided him with wonderful care. Service arrangements have been entrusted to the care of Baca's Funeral Chapels of Las Cruces and Sunset Crematory, 300 E. Boutz Road. 575-527-2222. For online condolence logon to
Published in Las Cruces Sun-News on July 21, 2013
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