Charles L. Hildreth, Jr. ’53

Charles L. Hildreth, Jr. ’53 died on January 25, 2020, in Falmouth, Maine.

(The following was published by The Portland Press Herald on February 5, 2020)

Charles Lawrence Hildreth, Jr., died January 25, 2020, at his home in Falmouth, watched over closely by his family and granddog, Brady, at his bedside. He was born September 20, 1931, in Portland to Charles Lawrence Hildreth, Sr., and Dorothy Wyman Hildreth of Cape Elizabeth.

His early years saw him always tinkering in his shop with electric trains, building crystal sets, a go-cart and even a motor bike which he fashioned from his mother’s “borrowed” vacuum cleaner motor. He also had a musical bent and because he was sturdily built he was given a tuba which he enjoyed playing in the Deering High School band.

He continued at Deering until his junior year when he joined his cousin Hoddy Hildreth at Deerfield Academy. In the summer of 1949 he and Hoddy set sail on the 88′ schooner “Bowdoin” for the Arctic with Captain Donald B. MacMillan. He learned so much on that trip that he was able to return the following summer as the paid engineer for the crew. His admiration for MacMillan and the exposure to the Inuit, and the Arctic environment were to stay among the wonders of his life.

In 1956 he married Deborah “Debo” DeNormandie Worcester of Dover, Massachusetts. He was always very proud of her years of remarkable work with special-needs preschool children. Charles had graduated from Bowdoin in 1953 and then gone on to the Harvard Business School. After their marriage he went to work for the Emery Waterhouse Company, his father’s wholesale hardware business, the third oldest in the country. Charles’s work ethic was drummed into him early in life. At nine years old he was sent off with his lunch pail to work as a summer day laborer on a farm near the family camp. At twelve, he had his first taste of the business that was to become his life’s work; he unloaded freight cars for Emery Waterhouse. As a business school graduate he applied what he had learned and eventually succeeded his father, going onto grow the business and as he said, “bring it into the 20th century.” In 1974 he served as the president of the National Wholesale Hardware Association.

An intrepid sailor, he and Debo sailed the coast of Maine for many summers with their friends and their four children. When his beloved Debo died after almost fifty adventurous years together, he realized he was unbearably lonely and luckily found Judy Manion who became his loving companion for the next thirteen years.

Charles always had a big talent for playing the piano by ear. Wherever he went and wherever he met a piano he could light up a room with his soft music and loud laughter. He loved to fill his houses annually at Christmas for a holiday sing and again on the Fourth of July. This same family gathered at Dingley Island for a festive and patriotic time. It was a chance to laugh, play and love to be together, once more.

Dogs and friends were always included at these events. This strong love for dogs was noted on one of his pillows at home; “I hope to become the wonderful person my dog thinks I am.” He was.

Charles is survived by Judy Manion of South Portland, her daughter, Sarah, and her grandson, Matthew; four sisters, Alice Rand of Cape Elizabeth, Florence “Floppy” White of Cumberland Foreside, Mary Grimm of Leeds, Massachusetts, and Margaret Vermillion of Greycliff, Montana; his four children and their mates, Walter of Standish, Sally and Dave of Bowdoinham, Philip “PY” and Deirdre of Great Falls, Virginia, and Michael and Tara of Cumberland. Charles had five wonderful grandchildren, Alex, Julia and Nathaniel, and Jack and Emma. He adored them all.

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