BY AILA HILLBERG
Carl Hillberg’s family and friends will gather on September 25 to celebrate his 100th birthday with him. His Swedish immigrant parents arrived in Turlock in 1918 to begin their American adventure. Carl, their second child and only son, was born in 1922 at the original Emanuel Hospital on Canal Drive. He grew up on a farm on the outskirts of Turlock and helped his father with farming and his mother with her egg business. Carl was adventurous and independent. Once a favorite older cousin who lived in Denair asked him out for a visit. So he jumped on his bike and cycled from the family farm on Golf Road to Denair. Of course, the cousin thoughtfully put his bike in the back of his car when it was time to go home and brought it back.
Carl loved music and played trumpet in the band Turlock High with his good friend, Rex Anderson. As members of the band, they were encouraged to go door to door selling subscriptions to the new “Community Concert Series” which was coming to Turlock in 1940. The Community Concert Series was a mainstay in the cultural life of Turlock for decades. Carl generously supported the Community Concert Association over the following years and attended their last concert in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic ended their presence in Turlock. He was also an excellent student, and particularly excelled in mathematics. Carl had a math teacher at Turlock High, Bill Garlough, who quit teaching to open an accounting business. Bill told Carl to come back to Turlock after graduation and that he would have a job at his accounting firm.
After high school, Carl attended Modesto Junior College. There, he befriended fellow Livingston math student Ben Hashimoto. Unfortunately, Ben was interned in a camp in Merced before being sent to Colorado. Carl faithfully visited Ben in the camp while he was still in Merced. Ben and Carl reconnected after returning to the area and maintained an 80-year friendship, enjoying many family dinners and gatherings over the years.
Carl earned an AA degree in accounting in the spring of 1942. That fall he had started his first semester at Cal Berkeley when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Due to his accounting degree, he was sent to help manage supply logistics for the China Burma India Theater of World War II and was stationed in India. After the war, he was able to complete his undergraduate degree at Cal and returned to Turlock to work for his former math teacher, Bill Garlough.
In 1950, Carl married Merlyn Miner, also a graduate of Turlock High. Because she was six years younger than Carl, their paths never crossed until they both worked for Garlough. Family took priority in the 1950s as Carl and his wife Merlyn had four children. Ron, Rob, Loren and Ann. Carl was particularly concerned about his son Ron who contracted polio when he was three months old. At that time, in 1952, little Ronnie was the youngest person ever in an iron lung. Later, as a toddler, Ron’s legs needed exercise and the best way to do that was in the water, so Carl dug and built a two foot deep pool in the back yard, lined with cement and including a pump to keep it clean. . Carl was also a devoted son who cared for his widowed mother and disabled older sister for many years.
Unexpectedly, his mentor and friend Bill Garlough died in 1966. Carl then devoted even more time and energy to his business so that he could continue to meet the needs of all of his customers. He added accountants along the way, but his favorite addition was his son Rob, who returned to Turlock to work with his father in 1980, and who still maintains the integrity and skill that has been a hallmark of CE Hillberg and Company.
Carl’s community service began in earnest in the 1960s. He was a board member of the Emanuel Hospital and, along with hospital administrator Paul Avard, was instrumental in negotiating the purchase of the property on Olive Avenue where the hospital is located today.
He was also elected Town Treasurer of the Town of Turlock in 1960. At that time the population of Turlock was just over 9,000. He was chosen in eight consecutive elections and served the town of Turlock for 32 years with five different mayors: Quayle Norton, Enoch Christoffersen, Dale Pinkney, Brad Bates and Curt Andre, until he stepped down. post in 1992. The population had more than quadrupled to over 40,000 at the time of his retirement.
The Rotary Club, an organization dedicated to community service, was another of his many activities. He was president of the Turlock Club in the 1960s. He was also very involved in the Turlock Chamber of Commerce and also served as president of that body. For many years he was very active in the Century Club, a group that supported and defended young Cal State Stanislaus.
He was the Stanislaus County Fair’s prize checker and spent a fair week signing checks for all the winners of the various pageant categories.
Because he had three sons, he naturally became involved in youth sports and coached Little League teams – also in the 1960s.
During these years his accounting practice grew, but he also had time to serve in various capacities at Nazareth Lutheran Church and later Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, eventually serving on the board of administration of the District of California, Nevada, Hawaii of the Lutheran Church. Missouri Synod.
When a new community project needed volunteers, this time to restore Turlock High School’s historic auditorium which had been damaged by fire in 1979, Carl was ready and willing to help once again, with his financial expertise. Along with many others who worked on the project from 1986 until its opening in 1999, he is committed to seeing the restoration completed.
Proud of his Swedish heritage, he was happy to be involved in the Scandinavian Festival which was held for several years in the 1990s and early 2000s. His job, of course, was that of treasurer.
Over the years, Carl and his wife Merlyn enjoyed their children and grandchildren, socializing with neighbors, church and community friends and their bridge clubs. While they were both healthy, they were able to take many delightful trips across the United States and around the world.
Eventually Merlyn’s health declined and she died in 2004.
In 2006, a wonderful new chapter in Carl’s life began when he married Betty Pettus. They shared many mutual friends and had a great time entertaining friends at their home, as Betty is an exceptional hostess. They also had wonderful journeys, until age and caution forced them to slow down. But, after such a busy life, it’s time to slow down and enjoy a very happy birthday.