A Man for All Reasons: Bruce Hilton, 1930-2008
Sometimes in your life you meet someone who seems rather unimposing, but on further investigation you find layers of value which transcend all definitions. Such a man has been Bruce Hilton – minister, author, columnist, medical ethicist, social justice activist, tuba player, father of four and husband of the late Rev. Virginia Hilton, a giant in the same fields in her own right.
I say “has been” and not “was” because I cannot let go of the memories, the education, the good times we had together as friends. The reality is that Bruce followed his beloved Ginny to that better place reserved for ethical giants – within five months – at 1:25 on the morning of March 14, 2008. The family had placed him in a hospice some two weeks before and he and they were prepared for this outcome. The diabetes, which had tortured him with pain and enveloping blindness in recent years, was no longer a factor.
If you want a biographical sketch of a life well and actively lived I would send you to Google where you can see the leaps of faith that Bruce and Ginny (shown at left) traveled together. The only fact that we actually shared was our birth year, 1930. I was no match for their passion for justice or capability.
Bruce came into my life in 1982, the year his wife was assigned to the
Little by little we learned of the history of this “dynamic duo.” The Civil Rights era had taken the young marrieds, with four children, to work the fields in the Delta Ministry, fighting the Ku Klux Klan and the ongoing prejudice in the
In the early days, Bruce was the minister while Ginny was the professional nurse. Bruce’s abilities in writing took him into newspaper work while in college and beyond, and supported Ginny’s new sights on a ministerial career of her own. The field of medical ethics or bio-ethics was developing and Bruce transferred his interests into more writing, with bioethics as his passion, founding The National Center for Bioethics in
A syndicated column by Bruce with a bio-ethics theme was read around the
Ginny became his eyes for driving, which helped him maintain his other passion, playing the tuba. In the church that Ginny had served prior to
But it was another factor in their life together that brought out the most far-reaching of their combined talents. A son had realized he was gay. Bruce and Ginny took this as a challenge from God and decided to investigate every aspect. They read and digested every piece of information they could about the subject and resolved to educate the rest of the world about this part of human nature.
It was here that they as a team became a part of my personal enlightenment, and it is something for which I have been forever grateful. To expand our definition of humanity, love and compassion made me ashamed of comments in my past, along with providing me with an appreciation of God’s wider universe. Their work with writings and support of advocacy groups, such as P’FLAG, will live on far into the future.
It has been a privilege to know you, Bruce and Virginia Hilton. You have left quite a legacy. Perhaps the most important is Bruce’s book, Can Homophobia Be Cured? Wrestling With Questions That Challenge The Church. It’s available on Amazon.com.
Editor's Note: There will be a memorial celebration April 5 in Sacramento. For details download San Francisco Chronicle obituary.