William Hamilton Cilker Sr.
1919 - 2018
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William Hamilton Cilker, Sr.
March 1, 1919 - April 3, 2018
Lifelong resident of Los Gatos
"Grow. Thrive. Give," you taught us. Thank you for your lessons, your life and your love.
GROW. You were born in the "Valley of the Heart's Delight" to William and Hazel (Lester) Cilker. From an early age, with the loss of your father and the example of your mother's strength, you learned to be self-reliant with a tenacious work ethic. Determined, focused, stubborn and funny, you were always thinking of new ways to get things done. You paid your own way through Stanford University and there met your sweetheart Leila, who tutored you through your "Bonehead English" class. Though World War II took you in separate directions—she to the American Red Cross and you to Detroit to work on Chrysler's airplane engines—you found each other again in California. It was a fine victory!
THRIVE. With Lee you cultivated Cilker Orchards. "I love the soil," you said, but you also grew a loving family. What you two started turned into a family of ten, with Elizabeth (Kenton) Smith, William, Jr. (Elizabeth) Cilker, Carl (Kathleen) Cilker, and Noelle (David) Henderson, then ten more grandchildren with their spouses, and twelve great-grandchildren with more on the way. You delighted when your youngest generation played indoor golf with you, played piano for you, or zoomed your childhood tractor toys around your feet. Simple goodbyes at the front door turned into another half hour of conversation, then a final wave from the driveway.
GIVE. "As you go about your life," you told us, "take time out to help other people." How many marked-up articles, books, bottles of olive oil, packages of walnuts and bags of oranges must you have passed along over the years to just the right person?
So many still benefit from your leadership and compassion: Second Harvest Food Bank, Good Samaritan Hospital, Bible Way Christian Center, West Valley College Foundation, Los Gatos Rotary Club, Los Gatos High School, and numerous nonprofits through your Cilker Family Foundation. You will be remembered for your commitment to your employees and your countless, quiet acts of kindness.
It's only right that we send you off with words from your beloved Lee: "I want to thank Bill for guiding his family with love and encouragement. He has led with diligence and shown loyalty and integrity. For so many of these thoughtful considerations and for the love, opportunities and securities he has given his family, I would like to make this toast."
Bill is preceded in death by his wife Leila Arthur Cilker, parents William Cilker and Hazel Lester Cilker Smith, stepfather Owen Smith, siblings Beatrice Hubbard, Marion Cilker, George Cilker, and grandson Benjamin Cilker. We thank and treasure Stephanie Goodrich for the love and friendship she has given our family these many years.
Services will be held on April 22, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. at Los Gatos Presbyterian Church.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a gift to Second Harvest Food Bank, or using your talents with like-minded others to leave your community a better place.

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Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on Apr. 13, 2018.
02:00 PM
Los Gatos Presbyterian Church
Memories & Condolences
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7 entries
May 27, 2018
Frank Jewett
April 24, 2018
I had the great pleasure meeting Bill in 1991 after the Ainsley House was moved to it's current location in Campbell between City Hall and the Library. At that time I served as Campaign Director, raising funds to open the Ainsley House. I hear about the Cilker Family so I invited Bill to come to my office to learn more about the fruit canning and packing business. We talked at length about the Cilker Family, farming, agriculture, and the growth of Santa Clara Valley. Bill had wonderful stories to share and I loved listening. After I accepted a job at History San Jose in 1993, our paths crossed again. I always enjoyed catching up with Bill each time we met. I will miss his smile and caring words. Sending caring thoughts and prayers to the Cilker Family.
Barbara Johnson
April 24, 2018
Barbara Johnson
April 23, 2018
Dear Members of the Cilker Family,

Although I, the Founder of TWIS Services, did not know the honorable William Hamilton Cilker, Sr. directly, the nonprofit, faith-based organization: TWIS Services that I developed to empower former inmates, has been helped financially by a generous gift from the Cilker Family Foundation for the past three years. The Board of Directors for TWIS Services: Turning Weaknesses into Strengths as well as former male and female inmates within the Santa Clara County will always be grateful for his compassion he exhibited to others. We will remember him for the love he demonstrated to help meet the needs of countless people. His actions reflected his philosophy. We would like for you, his family, to know that the positive, caring and powerful impact that he had on others will not be forgotten.

With love, sympathy and appreciation,
Barbara Z. Dawson, Ed. D. - President
TWIS Services: Turning Weaknesses into Strengths

Barbara Dawson
April 20, 2018
I had the tremendous honor of working with Bill to raise funds for the Second Harvest Food Bank's main home on Curtner Ave. He was a wonderful leader and I learned so much from him. He was always concerned about feeding people, and so appreciative of the volunteers. I remember him asking about having potatoes to give out, because he would say "If you have a potato, you have something good and filling to eat." When bringing visitors on tours - and he brought lots of people on tours, even visitors from out of town - he would always stop and chat with the volunteers doing warehouse tasks, saying I am a volunteer too. He and Lee were a wonderful team, and set a terrific example for us to follow. Thank you Bill, for everything.
Colleen Lukoff
April 18, 2018
So sorry to hear of Bill's passing. He was great friend and client. With Sympathy, Art and Agnieszka.
April 13, 2018
Offering our deepest condolences during this difficult time.
Darling-Fischer Chapel of the Hills
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