Robert ‘Rocky’ Hilton: 1947-2012

Robert "Rocky" Hilton
Courtesy Photo

Robert Paul “Rocky” Hilton was born in San Diego, California, on June 25, 1947. He passed away at home in Tillamook, Oregon, on the evening of October 4, 2012.

Rocky’s family moved to Santa Barbara in the 1950s, and his father, Bill Hilton Sr., worked as a copy editor at the Santa Barbara News-Press. Rocky had many fond memories of growing up in Santa Barbara and Goleta during the ’50s and ’60s. As a small boy, he and his family lived in the Painted Cave community. His family then moved to Goleta when it was surrounded by walnut and lemon groves and 101 had a stoplight instead of an overpass. He laughingly recalled when he and his buddies let some horses loose from the ranch near the high school, and they galloped through the halls of San Marcos High.

After graduating from high school in 1965, Rocky spent the rest of the ’60s and ’70s as a blues guitarist, living and playing guitar in Santa Barbara, Isla Vista, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Tulsa, and points in between. He led an adventurous life during this time, traveling around the country with various musicians. One of many high points was playing for U.S. troops in Greenland. During the ’80s, he developed a passion for diving and fishing, filling his seawater aquariums with finds from the Santa Barbara Channel. This interest led him to ultimately pursue a career that kept him near the ocean. During his life he was a professional musician, bartender, cook, roofer, and, finally, a boat rigger and marine mechanic.

We married in 2003 and were blessed with the addition of triplets: two girls and a boy. Robert cared for me diligently during my high-risk pregnancy and thereafter was the primary caregiver (but don’t call him Mr. Mom!) for our children’s first years of life. He was a loving and protective father, and when the chips were down, no one made a better or faster infant’s swaddle.

He lived every minute of every day of his 65 years the way he wanted, and to the fullest. He often said he had done everything he wanted to do in his life and had no regrets at the end except leaving his family. In addition to our children, Heather, Elizabeth, and Spencer, he also leaves two brothers, Joe Hilton of Goleta and Jim Hilton of Medford, Oregon; a niece, Natalie Hilton, and nephews, Stuart Hilton and Ashton Hathaway. He was preceded in death by his mother and father, Carrie and William Francis Hilton; a brother, Bill Hilton; and infant twin brothers, Donald and Douglas Hilton.

Although most knew him by the name of “Rocky,” he preferred to be called Robert. Other monikers were “Mad Dog,” “Mr. Personality,” “El Bustamante,” “El Cremo del Whipo,” “Rockers,” “Uncle Daddy,” “The Rock Man,” and some that aren’t appropriate for print. Whether you loved him or found him to be incredibly difficult and hugely inappropriate (usually all of the above), you could not deny that he was quite a guy. His devastating wit, passion for living, and loyalty to those he loved will be remembered by those who knew him well.

His favorite quote, from Julius Caesar, summed up his philosophy of life:

Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,

It seems to me most strange that men should fear;

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.

As he wished, no formal memorial was held, and his ashes will be spread in the Kilchis River in Tillamook, Oregon. In remembrance of Rocky, please make a child laugh, adopt an animal, support your local musicians, and enjoy a barbeque with great music, family, and friends.


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