Greenville’s Louis Hilton remembered for philanthropy, love of hometown

Posted May 13, 2013, at 9:14 p.m.

GREENVILLE, Maine — Louis O. Hilton, who contributed greatly to the Greenville area, is being remembered fondly by the community following his recent death in Florida.

Hilton, 80, died on May 6 after a short hospital stay in Palm Beach, Fla., according to the Palm Beach Daily News.

“I’ve known him for quite a few years and I consider him a really, really good friend,” said Alan Hutchinson, executive director for the Forest Society of Maine. “It was heartbreaking news to hear he’s died.”

Born in Greenville, Hilton inherited millions from his grandfather Louis Oakes, brother of Sir Harry Oakes, who discovered the second-largest gold vein in the world in Ontario, according to a previous BDN report.

Hilton used that money to improve his local community.

He was part of the Grapevine Association, which set up scholarships for Greenville High School students in 1969, said Tony Bartley of Greenville. It started with $50 the first year, he said, and now gives out five $1,000 scholarships each year.

Along with Richard “Duke” McKeil, Hilton was instrumental in rescuing the Steamship Katahdin. McKeil died in September 2011.

The Steamship Katahdin, affectionately known as the ‘Kate’ to locals, will turn a century old next year. It first was used to carry supplies up and down Moosehead Lake and later was used to boom logs. It is now used as a tour boat.

“They were part of the initial group of community members who raised the money to refurbish the boat and get it on [Moosehead] Lake in the first place,” said Liz Cannell, executive director of the Katahdin Museum and daughter of McKeil. “Lou was a longtime supporter of the community and particularly the museum and the boat.”

The land for the Moosehead Marine Museum was donated by Hilton and he served as a board member for about 35 years, according to Cannell.

Hilton and his wife, ‘B,’ also supported Charles A. Dean Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

“He and his family are very supportive of our local hospital,” said Luke Muzzy, president of the board of directors for the Moosehead Marine Museum. “Lou and B were always hosting events to help the hospital.”

He also recognized the balance between using the land and harvesting the land, said Hutchinson.

“One of the unique things about Lou is that he understood the connections of the people to the land. He helped me understand how forest lands and lakes [in Greenville] could be conserved for the benefit of the people in a way that also balanced for development and growth for the communities,” said Hutchinson. “It was never all or nothing. He saw that blend.”

Although Hilton was wealthy, he was quite humble, said Hutchinson.

“This was a guy of great personal wealth who didn’t act like a rich guy,” said Cannell. “He was very down to earth. He was kind. He really was a Greenville person.”

Hilton had a collection of classic cars and piloted his own planes.

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, B, two daughters, Christine Cramer and husband, Brad, and Karen Fresne, and six grandchildren, according to an obituary in the Palm Beach Daily News.

Donations in his memory can be made to the Moosehead Marine Museum, 12 Lily Bay Road, Greenville, ME 04441; and C.A. Dean Memorial Hospital, 364 Pritham, Ave., Greenville, ME 04441.

A celebration of his life will take place in Greenville at a later date.

“It’s such a huge loss for that whole community,” said Hutchinson. “He worked his entire life trying to make that spot special for future generations.”

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