Cover photo for Robert Backus Hilbert's Obituary
1929 Robert 2023

Robert Backus Hilbert

January 4, 1929 — April 26, 2023

Born on January 4, 1929 in Pleasant Grove, Utah, Robert (Bob) Hilbert, age 94, finished his full and rich life on earth and began his next great adventure on April 26, 2023.  A Celebration of Life will be held in Bob’s honor on Friday, June 2nd, 2023, from 5pm to 7pm, with full military honors starting at 6:45pm.  Bob’s family hopes you will come to visit and recall wonderful times with Bob and each other.  Conservation Garden Park, 8275 So. 1300 West, West Jordan, Utah.
Bob was born the last of 8 children to George and Lavinia Whitecar Backus.  His mother died when he was 4 months old and subsequently, his aunt and her husband, Rudy and Sarah Whitecar Hilbert, raised him.   With this Hilbert family, he gained another 3 siblings.  He was welcomed into his next life by his two sets of parents and all 10 of his siblings.  We are sure they all wondered what took him so long to get there!
Bob entered the water utility industry at age 18 when he was employed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.  His first assignment was to survey the Rainbow Bridge in Southern Utah and gather data to be used for the design/construction of Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River.
Bob enlisted in the Army in 1948 and began a two-year active-duty assignment at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma in Sept, 1950.   He held the position of Master Drill Sargeant when he was discharged in May, 1952.
In 1954, Bob became the first employee and General Manager of the newly formed Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District.  The District is a wholesale/retailer of municipal water to Salt Lake County.  The District is now one of the largest municipal water districts in Utah – Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District – serving more than 700,000 people.  Bob retired in 1989, after 35 years as General Manager.
Bob was appointed to the first Board of Directors of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, a large water resource agency, which develops water from the Colorado River system.  He was very involved with Utah’s congressional delegation to secure adequate funding for this project.  He appeared before various committees of Congress many times to justify the continued financing of government funds.  Bob served on this Board from 1964-1992, of which, eight years he served as Chairman.
Bob served as President of American Water Works Association from 1974-75.  The Federal Safe Drinking Water Act was signed into law during his term in December 1974.
Bob served as Chairman of the Utah State Drinking Water Board from 1978-1994.  This agency had the responsibility of enforcing the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  Bob oversaw the implementation and monitoring of state water quality standards for more than 400 water utilities.
Bob led groups consisting of water managers from throughout the United States to two tours of Russian water works facilities in 1974 and 1989.  Since his retirement in 1989, Bob continued to be involved in water.  Bob’s career spanned more than 50 years of continued dedication to the water industry.  He represented the industry before Governors as well as the U.S. Congress.  He was at home with meter readers, engineers and utility executives.  He led by example and two of his sons, plus one grandson did follow him in the industry.  His legacy is the utility he built, the employees he trained and the leadership he provided to all he touched.
Bob loved two places on this earth with all his heart – his cabin in the woods at Star Valley Ranch, Wyoming.  He fell in love with the location, it’s beauty and the abundant wildlife. Oh, how he loved swinging on the deck swing out back and enjoying all that mother nature provided.
Bob also loved deer and elk hunting in the Strawberry Valley.  He and his brothers, sons, nephews and cousins made it an annual trip for many, many years.  The younger generation still carry on the tradition to this day.  A very, large tent was pitched and a good time was had by all.  Bob was the main ‘breakfast’ chef – a job he looked forward to with such enjoyment.  When his health started to decline, it was heartbreaking for him not to be able to be in attendance annually.
Bob still did all of his own finances and bookkeeping up until about 3 months ago.  Very organized, meticulous and precise were his desk and files.  They were a work of art!  And to have to relinquish his mastering of income taxes every year was hard for him this past year.  He has every single year of taxes filed in a large binder since he was 18…1947!!  It is a site to see!
Bob’s greatest hobby was driving and taking rides anywhere and everywhere.  When he was healthier, he would drive for hours.  Once driving from the Oregon coast to home in one day!  This past year, he just loved getting out of the house and driving to see all the new sites – new buildings, old buildings torn down, snow everywhere this winter and his last ride, he did get to experience a bit of springtime with leaves budding on the trees.  He pretty well knew where all of the roads of Utah went, intersected and ended.  He has a grand collection of maps of many states and countries that he visited.
Bob married Dora Jean Davis in August, 1949.  Four children were born to this union – one daughter and 3 sons.  Susan (Brian) Oakden, Jeff (Shelley) Hilbert, Richard (Eydie) Hilbert and Robb Hilbert.  Five grandchildren – Jason (Vera) Bernards, Shea (Brandon) Akers, Natalie Hilbert, Mike (Marinda) Hilbert and Jon (Alecia) Hilbert.   13 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great grandchildren.  After Jean’s passing in 1995, Bob married Barbara Tidwell in April, 1998, adding 4 step-children, 7 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.   He was so proud of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  They will forever know that their grandfather loved them so very much.  He lived for their smiles and to hear about their everyday lives and happenings.
Bob’s family would like to thank Inspiration Hospice – with a special thank you to Austin, who he looked forward to visiting with each week.   Also, the VA of Utah for all of their assistance.
It has been said that true wealth, in the short time we are allowed, comes from those with whom we have met and shared.  Using this measure, we are all truly richer by having the good fortune of knowing Bob – our Dad, our Husband, our Grandfather, our Uncle and Cousin.  May he rest in peace now as he struggled so this past year with declining health.
Online condolences may be shared to the family at www.memorialutah.com.
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Celebration of Life
June 2, 2023 at 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Conservation Garden Park, 8275 So. 1300 West, West Jordan, Utah.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Robert Backus Hilbert, please visit our flower store.

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