This week in The Times: Steve ‘The Undertaker’ Hilton
Vitals: Steve “The Undertaker” Hilton, 56, has lived in Rockford since returning from Vietnam in 1974. Since his return, The Undertaker has been directly involved in the lives of Rockford’s youth either by putting on special events such as Easter egg hunts, Christmas programs or by coaching youth sports. Currently, he enjoys spending time with his daughter when he is not working to better the lives of at-risk youth in lower-income neighborhoods around Rockford.
1. If you could choose any elected official – local, state or national – to speak with one-on-one, who would it be and what would you say? I’d want to speak with President Barack Obama (D). I’d tell him that if he really wanted to bring the economy back, he has to bring the jobs back. If he’s going to use stimulus money, he needs to use it to benefit the people, to put them back to work and make them feel proud again. Some of these people have been working their whole lives, and now they’re unemployed. It’s not that people don’t want to work, it’s that there are no jobs. This is tearing families apart, too. The stress and worry associated with losing a job is horrible on families.
2. If you were to move away from the Rock River Valley, what three things would you miss the most? I’d never move away from here, first of all. That would be ludicrous on my part to even consider it. I’d miss the demand for who and what I am around here. It feels good to me to be important to those I’ve helped. I’d definitely miss the reception I get from people. Plus, some of the people around here would come looking for me if I left.
3. How did you get the nickname “The Undertaker”? When I first started coaching youth soccer and baseball, I didn’t have a van or bus to transport the kids in. So, I found a 1969 Cadillac hearse, installed bench seating, and started hauling the kids to and from games in it. That thing could carry about 15 kids at a time. One day, a parent came up to me after a game and said, “I’ve never seen an undertaker undertake so much for the sake of kids,” as he watched the kids piling back into the hearse to go home. Since then, the name has just stuck.
4. What motivates you to put on these special programs around the Rockford area? All the stuff I do, the programs I put on, are done to make people smile. I just want to bring a little happiness to these kids because I know so much of their lives are filled with stress and worry. So, if I can do something to make someone feel better – if even for just a couple of minutes – I accomplished what I set out to do. I just enjoy the smiles and the faces of the people I help.
5. Question from the last “This week in The Times” participant, Dan Johnson: How can the general public get involved? Right now, I need a grant writer. The City of Rockford has a large quantity of money set aside for grants for programs for kids. That money would surely help me help others, but I just need someone to write the grant.
“This week in The Times” is a weekly survey of people selected by The Rock River Times staff. The column does not accept unsolicited submissions.
From the March 24-30, 2010 issue