Dwight Lee Hilgeford was born in Dayton , Ohio on April 20, 1929. His early memories include many on the farms of his grandfathers in Shelby and Darke Counties. Dwight remembered riding Belgian horses and watching straw being threshed from the large rock he sat on in the field.
At Grandpa Bill Leeper ‘ s farm, Dwight was just a toddler when he fell in the rain barrel . Grandma Becky just happened to look outs i de and see his ball hat floating on the water. “Oh, my God, Dwight!”, she shouted as she raced to the rescue! Dwight was often attacked by a large rooster on these visits. One day after an attack, Grandpa Bill lost his patience and threw the rooster in the furnace. He then walked outside to see the rooster staring at him. Bill had killed the wrong one!
Around the age of twelve, Dwight’s family built a house on Neff Road in Dayton, this was convenient to his father’s car business on the corner. The basement was dug with a team of horses and a scoop. Their home was the center of much fun. Dwight could easily climb out his bedroom window to find adventure. He played in the Stillwater River that ran along a cliff in the backyard. He also kept many types of chickens in the chicken coop with White Rocks being his favorite.
A daily challenge was a family pony named Buster. This pony was so mean that he would bite or lay down and roll with the rider and saddle on! It always took two people to hold him but one day there was nobody around so Dwight started to lead him on his own. When he grabbed Buster’s halter, the pony swung his head back and forth. Poor Dwight, who was holding on tight, was swinging all around in the air!
Neff Road was still in the country when the Hilgeford’s lived in their home. Many farms were close by. In those days a farmer would first cut down his wheat and then feed it into a thresher machine. This shook the seeds off and shot the straw out into a pile. For Dwight and his friends there was nothing more fun than sliding down a slick straw stack. But after a couple of weeks they had to beware because snakes would move in!
Dwight went to grade school at Our Lady of Mercy which at that time was a wood school house heated by large wood burning stoves . He couldn’t remember why … But once Sister William Marie was angry with he and a friend. They were ordered into the coal bin. It was cold and dirty climbing up all that coal but both boys finally made it up to the small window and jumped to their freedom. They ran all the way to the Stillwater River which Dwight considered his own territory. His mother, Alma always remembered receiving the phone calls from school, “Mrs . Hilgeford , we think Dwight’s playing hooky under the Sibenthaler Bridge.”
On weekends and summers Dwight, br other, Tom and friend, Donald Meyers used to walk to the Hilgeford farm in West Milton on Iddings Road. They were always accompanied by Barney, their beloved mutt who usually had to be carryed at least two-thirds of the way. Fending for themselves they would keep bottles of pop cold in the creek and play cowboys and indians. The only way to catch the horses was to grab their manes and hold on. Dwight’s father, Lee didn’t believe in severe bridle bits so the boys really had to jerk to get a horse to stop. Dwight’s horse was a big, white, workhorse named Pat. Once while chasing the others Dwight pulled and of course, Pat didn’t stop and the horse ran right into a fence! When Dwight hit the ground he remembered seeing his fallen horse ‘ s big hooves. Trapped, he was kicked many times before Pat was finally on his feet. Dwight was bleeding and hurt really bad as he waited for his parents to pick him up. But a cowboy’s life was not easy as he would be reminded again in his life on a mountain in Colorado.
It was always fun going to a good horror movie at the RKO or State Theaters . Afterwards the thing to do was to walk home in the dark along the Stillwater near the Sibenthaler Bridge. Actually it seemed the shortest way home, for after much discussion and enactment of the Mummy’s Hand ; Dwight, Tom, and sister, Jerry usually ran all the way home !
Dwight once had a goose that was just about as mean as Buster. Everyday when it was time to take care of the chickens that goose would chase, bite, and beat Dwight with it ‘ s wings . Once having finally decided he had enough , Dwight stuck a burlap bag in his back pocket and started over the fence . The unfearful goose came at Dwight before he was even over . Determined, Dwight jumped and grabbed that goose by the neck . As both wrestled , Dwight final l y got the sack over his head and body. After tieing him in he dragged the sack to the poultry shop. There the man asked how much he wanted for the goose. He asked for two dollars but got one and his problem solved .
A creative boy, Dwight once noticed the resemblance of Tom ‘ s favorite cereal , Riffles, to rubber bands . He decided to cut a golf ball open and mix the rubber with the cereal while Tom was listening to the radio. When Dwight gave Tom a bowl in the kitchen, Tom remarked that they didn ‘ t taste good that evening, sort of like rubber bands … When he realized what happened he was really mad! Later Dwight ‘ s mother saw the uneaten bowl and decided to finish the cereal herself. Poor mother turned out to be an innocent victim of her two giggling sons !
Dwight went to high school at Chaminade where if he wasn’t seriously trying to be recruited into the priesthood, he might be responsible for the wooden swing hanging from the top of the flag pole ! He maintained a relationship of respect with the priests and brothers of the school although they understood he did not agree with all their teachings. At the end of the school year Dwight would ask his friends and brothers to the West Milton farm. There they could fish, boat, cookout, and just have fun. For Dwight and his friend, Jim, it was too much to resist when the meanest brother from Chaminade boarded their boat. The brother was sitting on the front of the boat when the boys started rocking it. Over he went clothes a nd all in the Stillwater! He was quite a sight wrapped in an old indian blanket, carrying his wet clothes into Chaminade.
During Dwight ‘ s sophomore year of high school, he worked as an usher at the RKO Keith Theater downtown. There he was only permitted to seat Negroes on the right side of the theater and if their section was filled they had to wait outside~ He always felt this was wrong .
When Dw·ight was seventeen, he took his savings and rode a train to Evert, Washington. From there he took a ship called The Princess Louise to Alaska. On the ship he bunked with a real old man with one leg and was befriended by the Captain who let him sit at his table and also drive the boat through the Narrows . Dwight marveled at the hugh mountains , beautiful trees, blue-white ice bergs and whales ! The ship landed in Skagway , a town with mud streets, boardwalks, and few rooms to sleep. Consequently Dwight spent his first night in a jail and the next at a mission where he visited with a priest.
Outside of Skagway, Dwight saw Chilkoot Pass which was called the “Golden Stairs” during the Klondike Gold Rush. After taking a train to White Horse , Divight boarded a rickety, old bus and began the long ride to Fairbanks. There were no towns enroute so tents were set up for the riders along the road. Dinners such as fried chicken or pig pie were cooked by a l ady from the bus . The next car along the r oad always helped another which might be broken down. Dwight remembered a group of indians waiting with an old man whose hand was hurt and wrapped. He boarded the bus after a long goodby, ~hey had been waiting for two days . Dwight thought they all looked like they’d never see the man again. ‘
At Kluane Lake the riders slept in a cabin with no windows, a safeguard against bears . Dwight wore a leather shirt which at times could be hot on the dusty bus so he was happy to finally reach Fairbanks. Once there he met a big, husky marine . The man needed money and suggested Dwight help him unload frozen beef from a boxcar. Because it was summer it was daylight all the time, drapes had to be pulled to sleep and stores were open at all times . Dwight saw moose and totem poles and kept a record of it all in a diary . It was in this book that he found a note from his mother … She told him she loved him, hoped he would return, that the family was about to go on a vacation to Michigan and she would miss him terribly . It was too much for a young man to handle, Dwight was on the next plane home .
One day a troubled Dwight walked out his driveway to get in the car. His mother ‘ s voice came from the kitchen window, “Dwight, you ‘ ve got broad shoulders . You can handle it . ” She did not know but sensed her sons worry. And those words were never to be forgotten as they made Dwight always feel strong.
Adele McGilvery· first saw Dwight on a hayride. Knowing she had to meet him, she arranged to have him come to Cuyoda Club the following weekend . They were married on June 12, 1948 . For a time they lived a t the West Milton farm on Iddings Road . Their first home lacked water a nd a furnace but did have an outhouse ! Dwight had wanted to buy and sell cattl e and so on their first anniversary his parents gave them a Holstein calf. They had to feed it from a bucket with a special nipple . Once about twenty Hampshire pigs got loose and it took the young couple all day to catch them . Dwight chased one pig a mile before it ran over a cliff. Unafraid, Dwight jumped dow~ the cliff and grabbed the pig so forcefully he thought it bit his hand off! Actually Dwight grabbed so hard he had broken the pigs teeth! Adele then drove by and he threw it in the truck.
After several years Dwight and Adele moved to North Dayton on Brandt Pike, an area which is now called Huber Heights . There they raised Leghorn chickens and sold eggs. After the birth os a daughter , Christine, they decided to build a house in their back field facing Belfonta ine Road . While living there two sons were born , Bill and later, Eric. Dwight was then working for his father at Lee Hilgeford Auto Sales selling used cars but he also bought and sold older ~ou ses on the side.
When a large development of homes were constructed across from Dwight’s land he realized there would be a need for shopping . He had a · shopping center and restaurant built right behind his house . A corner was sold for a Sinclair gas station and an interested grocer was found for a supermarket. The restaurant was called the Hasty Tasty.
When Dwight saw the need for a bank, he approached many banks about coming to the area . None expressed interest so he then talked with his father about starting one . After proving to the Banking Department that there was a need they started forming the first bank in Huber Heights . It was named The Community Bank and shares of stock were offered to all those in the community. A share was sold for $25 and 10,000 shares were sold to 255 shareholders. The bank later merged with First National Bank.
With a shopping center and bank in their back yard Dwight and Adele decided it was time to move. Their next home was on Taylorsville Road. Two more sons, Patrick and Michael were born there. All their children flourished in the country surrounded by ponies, treehouses and an array of farm animals much like Dwight’s childhood. Dwight enjoyed spending time with his children, tieing ropes to trees for them to swing on or other projects like building dams in the creek.
In past years Dwight’s father Lee had drilled for oil in the northern counties of Ohio. This excited Dwight so he decided they should get back in the business. They drilled several wells in Shelby County. He always remembered how nervous he felt as he dropped a two foot stick of dynamite down a drilled hole . After the explosion water would gush high in the air giving way to black oil that went everywhere. A natural gas smell would linger and there was plenty of excitment as Dwight’s children and family would celebrate.
Dwight finally sold the automobile bus iness which he had purchased from his father to enable Lee to retire . Before it sold Dwight had made it the largest Chrysler Dealership in a three state area . By this time Dwight and several partners had formed Imperial Development. They built shopping centers and apartments in the Dayton area and s tarted many nightclubs. The most notable would would be the Pookie Pookie which had a polynesian theme and a small swimming pool inside ! This inclination for owning taverns must have been inherited from Dwight ‘ s father and grandfather, Fre d, both owned several for a time.
A new bank, Imperial State Bank was formed and located in Vandalia and later a branch in Huber Heights was opened. Dwight ‘ s marine business was sold to the corporation and was sixth largest in the u . s . at the time of sale . He also owned a teen dance club called Hullabaloo.
The death of his son, Bill was devastating for Dwight. Feeling a need to escape, he traveled out west where he could think and wander. At the Papago Indian Nation he talked with a priest who encouraged Dwight to do what he felt had to be done but to do it himself. Dwight was 40 miles away before he realized he could not seek his revenge; something the priest knew all along …
More than ever Dwight realized the importance of his remaining family. He concentrated on giving them new directions often taking them with him as he bought and sold ranches in New Mexico and Colorado. Many happy memories were made on these trips. They would sleep in the mountains and listen to coyotes at night . They felt the influences of the Native Americans, Spanish, and cowboy cultures. Traveling to many reservations they bought pottery, blankets, and jewelry. At Canyon de Chelly they watched as a Navaho woman weaved a beautiful blanket. Whether skiing down a mountain, rafting a river, exploring a ghost town, or sliding down Slippery Creek, life was very exciting. All would laugh as they remembered brushing their teeth and bathing i n a mountain stream. Several vehicles may have been driven, so communication was by CB radio . One notable quotation : “Silverado, watch out for that cow on the road.”
On one of the last trips to the west, Dwight was injured in a horse accident on Devil Mountain at the Keyah Grande Ranch . A ranch he owned near Pagosa Springs , Colorado. While riding with Patrick on a steep cliff, his horse reared and fell backwards on top of him. Patrick rode hard and finally found help from a cowboy. It took hours to get Dwight off the mountain. He was brought down on an old bobs l ed in the back of a truck. They took a closed logging road down. At the hospital in Durango, Colorado, he was told he had a broken hip socket. After a long hospital stay and convalescent , Dwight started to function again but pain would always be there.
Just as Dwight and his family enjoyed the west, they also liked Florida . Here as in Ohio, Dwight loved caring for his parents. For fun he would take Daddy Lee for a beer at a local tavern or Mammy dancing . Whether fishing, skiing, boating, walking, or hunting for sea shells he kept his entire family active.
Dwight’s personality could be described as optimistic, he always saw the positive in situations and people . Never ·One to fight, Dwight would always try to talk problems out. He was strongly influenced by a Dale Carnegie Course, taken during the early years of his marriage . This course was designed to teach the participants to Win Friends And Influence People and also also enhance their public speaking abilities . During one session Dwight was asked to make an impromptu speech about the word, applesauce. Thinking fast he told a story from his boyhood. Dwight’s sister, Betty had decided it would be a smart idea for them to clean the pony stall every morning before school. They usually staked Buster, the pony out and took turns with the cleaning. One morning Dwight’s mother had him wear his good shirt and tie for school pictures that day. She then sent him out to get Betty who was in the stall and getting ready to pitch a basket of manure. When Dwight came to the barn he was suddenly splattered with manure! His clothes were ruined and it was a surprise he’d never forget. How did that relate to applesauce? Well the manure usually landed under the appletree and it’s big apples were used to make applesauce. Dwight won an award for that speech.
Dwight’s daughter, Christine concerns over world problems were always eased by his hopeful responses. So it came as no surprise to her when he used his creativity in finance to devise a plan that could help solve the Federal Deficit. Working on the assumption that the deficit would have to be paid through taxes; this plan would give people two options. The first would be by paying taxes and the second would be by lending money to the government at a low interest rate. These funds would be deposited into a savings or banking institute thus strengthening the lending institutions. The head of the economic department of Wright State University, Professor Robert Premus felt t he plan was worthy of serious consideration. Copies of the plan were sent to various political figures and agencies. It is difficult navigating through the political maze but Dwight persisted, always optimistic he would achieve his goal.
One summer Dwight and Christine were involved in the rescue of an indian burial ground in southern Ohio. With reverence they, grandchildren, Lauren and Shane, and Adele dug pottery, bones, and other artifacts from trash pits close to a thousand years old. After presenting these items to archeologists it was learned that their finds were from early Ft. Ancient Indians. On one who had trip dug to up the site, bodies for they surprised arrowheads and grave robbers beads. Because of their immediate efforts with the Archaeological Conservancy illegal digging stoppad and now the burial grounds are in the conservancy.
Dwight and Adele moved to a house on daughter Christine’s farm after Adele’s stroke in 2003. In Bellbrook they were near all of their family who help with her care. Her recovery was excellent and they had many fun years there. Christine would come riding a horse from the woods to their back door. Their grandson, Colin could easily hike down to visit. All the family gravitated from their house. Dwight was always available for his family, driving kids to school and assisting his sons at the drop of a hat.
At the age of eighty, Popso, as he was named by his grandchildren, decided to drive across the country to Durango, Colorado by himself! Christine, Adele and Colin flew out and met him there. He had arrived early and naturally went to local taverns to find ranchers and cowboys to talk to. He expressed his disappointment to Christine that he could not find anyone to talk to and that everyone wanted to hear his stories instead… Thoughtfully, she told him that there were no old timers and that he was the only one left.
After he was back in Ohio for a few months Popso developed a dry cough which lasted for months. At Easter he promised to have it checked. His diagnosis was not good. Having never smoked a day in his life he had lung cancer. Driving to many doctor appointments and during hospital stays, Christine would always hear her father say, “Chris don’t cry”. Never was she allowed to cry in his presence. Dwight passed away on September 22, 2010 at the age of 81.