Maplewood’s Bill Hildebrand Celebrates His 100th Birthday

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Bill Hildebrand. Photo by Chad Hunt

Bill Hildebrand. Photo by Chad Hunt

Bill Hildebrand was all set to celebrate his 100th birthday on Saturday, October 22; however, bad weather postponed the party to Sunday, October 23. Hildebrand took in stride: What’s one more day when you’re 100 years old?

Sunday came, bright and sunny — a perfect day to start Bill’s second 100 years.

“What a great day it was!” Bill’s neighbor Jennifer Roszell told Village Green. “A huge cake and a proclamation by the mayor!”

“Probably 70-80 people showed up throughout the afternoon,” said Bill’s son Bill Jr. “Mayor DeLuca came by to say ‘hi’ to my dad a little later. We had neighbors from all over Golf Island stopping by to say hello. One of the high points was the newest neighbor, Felix Sockwell, who’s only lived on Burnet Street for a month, giving my dad a ride on his rickshaw around the neighborhood. Felix had the Beatles playing ‘Birthday’ while Dad got a tour around the neighborhood.”

“Bill is as sharp as a tack and has led a fascinating life,” Roszell said.

Born in Newark, Bill’s family moved to South Orange in his youth. He graduated from Columbia High School, served in Patton’s Armored Division, helped liberate Buchenwald, raised three children and is grandfather to 12 and great-grandfather to 11.

Here’s a biography of Bill written by Bill Jr. for that proclamation by Maplewood Township:

Bill Hildebrand was born October 22, 1916 at home on Summer Ave, Newark. After a few years, the family moved to 413 Centre St, South Orange. Bill attended the public schools and graduated from Columbia High School. He has always had a keen interest in football and track. He coached football to the younger players for a year or two and was also on the Columbia Track Team, where he excelled at the quarter-mile.

Later, after World War II broke out, he entered the US Army for four years. After serving stateside for several years, he was sent to Europe in December 1944. His first real action was the day the General Patton’s Fourth Armored Division broke through the German lines to enter the encircled city of Bastogne, Belgium, to relieve the 101st Airborne. He was on guard many nights next to Col. “Abe” Abram’s tank. Col. Creighton Abrams later became a general and the Chief of Staff of the Army during the Vietnam era. Bill is very proud to have been part of the 4th Armored, 53rdAIB.

Bill saw much action through Belgium and into Germany. In April 1945, he was one of the first that went into the Ohrdruf Concentration Camp (part of Buchenwald) and witnessed firsthand the horrors that occurred there.

After the end of the war, he came back home to South Orange, later married Janice Brodie. They moved to Maplewood in 1960 and raised three children, Bill Jr, June and Marilyn.

Bill now enjoys the many birthday parties and assorted celebrations for his 12 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Over the years, he has enjoyed repairing and building clocks. He continues to enjoy gardening, and doing small repair work around his home. He still enjoys watching football games, especially his favorite teams, Army and Alabama.

Click on photos to enlarge:

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