Charles Hildebrandt 1925 to 2012

Charles Hildebrandt on The Bruce Trail, Sept. 26, 1976. Photograph by Sally.

My father, and a contributor to the magazine, died yesterday. Here’s his obituary:

At Oakville Trafalgar Hospital, on April 17, 2012, Charles, aged 87, of suspected lung cancer (mesothelioma). A lifelong naturalist and conservationist, he emigrated from Germany in 1951, later opening Charles Hildebrandt Insulation Ltd., with offices in Toronto, Sudbury and Kitchener. He served two terms as a town councillor for Georgetown in the early ‘60s. Upon early retirement he gave his time to gardening, maintaining his 16-acre nature preserve, travelling, leading hikers & snowshoers through wilderness areas around the world, photography, writing, carpentry, and studying. He earned his B.A. when he was 79. He was learning Spanish, his third foreign language, in his mid 80s.
Difficult for his family to love, he combined strict discipline with soft sentimentality. He was devoted to the care in her later years, of his wife Ursula, who pre-deceased him in 2007. He is survived by his daughters Barbara Jennings and Gloria (Mike Davis), grandchildren Donna Herold (Tony), Brit, Trent (Jackie) & Grant Jennings (Karen), great-grandchildren Paul, Niko, Brooklyn, Breeana, Fiona, and his little dog Thomas.
Burial will be on Fri. April 20 at 2 pm in Greenwood Cemetery, Georgetown. A celebration of his life will be on Sat. April 28, 2 to 4 pm at Jones’ Funeral Home, 11582 Trafalgar Rd.
In memory contributions to Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy or Nature Conservancy of Canada would be appreciated. Feel free to leave your comments, remembrances or expressions of sympathy by clicking on Comments below.
I’m having trouble editing the captions of these photos! Sally Phillips took the above photo. Here’s a more recent photo of Charles, taken by Brien Young.

In His Environment by Sally Phillips


  • Gloria,
    My sincere condolences on the loss of your father. It sounds like he had a very full life, and he passed his love of nature along to you. His spirit will live on through your work in Escarpment Views.

  • Thanks, Johanna. Yes, he lived a life rich in experiences and we are celebrating all the good things about him. Still, I’ll miss him.

  • My condolences on the loss of your father.
    I got to know Charles through my sister Leona and Bryce.I found him a very interesting and well educated man and loved his sense of humour. He was quite funny at times. He often invited us back to his home where we would walk the trails with Charles and of course Thomas who seemed to be at his side at all times.I will miss him.

  • Yes, he had a wry sense of humour, sometimes irritating to his family! Thanks for your remembrance of him.

  • Dear Gloria – about as fine and honest a tribute as I have ever seen – after 30+ years of backpacking & snowshoeing with him, I’m sure Charles would approve.

    My deepest sympathies.


  • Thank you, Bill. I hope we’ll see you at one or both of these events.

  • Gloria:

    Deepest sympathies. To the end of my life I will always cherish Charles’ various snowshoe outings and trips that I participated in.

  • Charles, if not your best friend was next to being your best friend. He would take you, very economically to far away or just exotic places in the best fo company and treat you to the luxury fo every penny, and for me what I could afford. Like the shepherds staff would be the support he offered you in your best life’s journey. He is the measure I take for others who lead me down life’s path.

  • Dan & Murray, this brings tears to my eyes. I know my father would be honoured to know you feel this way.

  • Hi Gloria,
    I’m sorry to hear about your father. My thoughts are with you, and I know you’ll have the support of friends and family (and Mother nature and her turkey vultures) to help you through it all.
    Be well,

  • Thanks for giving me a smile, Chris. To everyone else: Chris wrote & photographed our cover story on turkey vultures in our Summer 2011 issue, one of our most-talked-about features ever! To view it online, go to

  • I remember that I finally, truly got a sense of your father’s approval after Bill and I survived our first year in the restaurant business in Toronto. That was 22 years ago! I did care what he thought of me; he had good business sense and knew that people have to work hard to make success happen.

    Age 30, according to your father, was the magic number for getting one’s act together. I made it at 32.

    Oh Gloria, you will miss him and have done an outstanding job making your own thing happen. You love the land, work hard, have a critical mind and a sentimental side just like your father.
    God bless you and your family at this difficult time. It is very much like the end of an era. Bill sends his heartfelt condolences too.

  • Oh, Misty, there are no words…After 37 years of close friendship, when we were thrown together in a shared residence room in first year university, words aren’t necessary. I’ll see you at the burial. Now, together, we’ve buried all our parents.

  • Gloria:

    My condolences.

    Your father had an inestimable influence in my life. His steadfastness and sense of humour pulled myself and others through many a difficult situation. Above all, he instilled a sense of self confidence in me that I could look after myself in the wilderness. I will miss him.

  • Murray, that really honours my father. Thanks for sharing.

  • I’m very sorry for your loss, Gloria. Your father sounds like an incredible man, well remembered by many. Our prayers are with you and your family.

  • I will miss him very much. Travel fast, travel light Grossvater.

  • Gloria, I am sorry to hear of your loss. It seems your father was a fascinating and complex man.

    You and your family are in my thoughts.

  • I met Charles in 1976, the beginning of years of map and compass trips into the woods, winter and summer (including a sleep out near Kearney when the temperature dropped to -45C, the chilliest of many memorable snowshoe weekends.) At the other extreme: the Arizona desert, where Maria and I met, one of the nine couples we know of who connected on trips with Charles. He’ll be remembered, as one of those people you grow up with in spite of as well as because of. Charles was an amazing character, we’ll miss him!

  • Dearest Gloria,
    I didn’t ever get to meet your Dad but heard so much about him through the years.
    Why does losing one’s father have to be soooo hard? My heart goes out to you! I will be with you in my thoughts on Friday and keep you in my heart during the upcoming tender months….love to you and Mike,

  • Thank you, everyone, for honouring my father. He would be overwhelmed.

  • Dad knows how I feel.

  • Dear Gloria,

    I’m sorry about your father’s passing. I extend my condolences to you and your family. I wish you all the peace of mind possible as you grieve your loss.

  • Charles was a long time volunteer with our agency, Links2Care, as a driver for Meals On Wheels. I will always remember Charles and his beloved and constant companion, Thomas. I have a soft spot in my heart for Charles and will miss him greatly every Monday morning when he would come into our office to volunteer. He would squeeze my hand and give me a smile and he would be off to pick up the Meals On Wheels food for our clients.
    My condolences to all of you, and Charles will be dearly missed by us all at Links2Care.

  • Gloria, I’m very sorry for your loss. Please accept condolences from all of us at the IPAO. Thinking of you.

  • Your good wishes are appreciated, as are your memories of Charles. Thanks to our supportive colleages at Independent Publishers Association of Ontario, a generous, sharing, professional group.

  • Gloria,

    Losing a parent is one of life’s hardest journeys. My condolences to you and your family.

  • I first met Charles in the Winter of 1999 on one of his famous Snowshoeing Weekend…Adventure…Expedition up North…near Algonquin Park. The temperatures must have been minus 30-35 degree Celsius that weekend. It did not bother Charles the Great Snowman…Winter Bear! Indeed, he was a distinguished Snowshoeing Trooper…Captain…Chef. Indeed, he had resilience…passion…love for people & Wonderland. I will remember that special weekend until my last breath when…where I will reconnect…rejoin Ursula…Charles my…all our loved ones since the beginning of time. Indeed, I had lost my son a few months before and Charles’s exquisite…delightful…spiritFUL weekend put so much white light…snow white…love in my heart…soul…spirit. Seven billion thanks, Charles, for doing that for me & all the happy go lucky Snowshoe Troubadours. Aurevoir!

  • Hello Gloria-
    Although I moved from Ontario to Vermont in 1990, I went on many outings with your father, in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Ontario. There were so many things I loved about him and a number of qualities that irritated me as well. I remember him pretending to be lost on snow shoe trips (always made it more adventurous) and having us meet for one trip in Ontario with only coordinates as the meeting place. I was fortunate to see him again in Toronto when Al Darling arranged a dinner and Charles came down from Georgetown for that. I was planning to visit him this June when in Ontario but am sorry that I waited too long. All my best thougths to you in the loss of your father.
    Phyllis Tiffany
    Richford, Vermont

  • I love getting these memories of wild times with Charles. I soon learned another of his tricks on a trip, of arranging so that there would be a huge hill to snowshoe up just before the end of the day. Talk about needing to dig energy out of your ankle bones. I’m convinced he was addicted to his own adrenalin.

  • My condolences, Gloria.

    Words tend to be weak and lacking in circumstances such as this. The loss of
    a parent represents a loss of strength inside. Part of ourselves is always
    identified as being “the thing I got from my father or mother.” It takes a
    while for that part to come back, for the loss to become something we can
    accept without so much pain.

    A good friend told me a little while ago that the burden of loss never goes
    away, we just get strong enough to carry it. That’s a good thing, because
    the feeling of loss is the thing that tells us how much we valued the one
    we’ve lost.

    You’re in my thoughts today,

  • My deepest condolences. I had the good fortune of occasionaly cleaning for Charles over the last two yrs. Each time I would go to his house I would learn something new about him and I found him to be such a wonderful inspiration in many ways. Charles is the reason why my little girl and I have cactus plants growing throughout our house. I will miss talking about our gardens together. He will be very missed. Carmen Robinson

  • Gloria:

    So sorry to hear of your loss. It sounds like your father was an interesting man with a real zest for living and learning. Treasure the good memories. You are in my thoughts.


  • Charles’s trips were always adventurous and arduous. Whenever there was a shortage of obstacles we would scan the horizon and if we saw one, we would run to embrace it, confront it and ultimately survive it, which is why we are all still here today and able to mourn his passing. His absence will be filled with all of the wonderful memories and stories from all of those wonderful excursions. He has also left us with a wonderful network of friendships that began to form from the very first trip that any on of us were fortunate enough to share with him.
    Descanse en paz, Carlos.

  • Thank you all for your kind words. I can’t reply to each comment individually, but know that we deeply appreciate them all. Brien, I love the image of scanning the horizon for obstacles to confront! So true of the few trips I went on. It’s wonderful that so many friendships have continued for so many years. Now we prepare to bury him next to my mother.

  • On behalf of Brooklyn (Charles’s great-granddaughter) she would like to say “thank you for the honey and jelly Charles”.
    She was too shy to do so out loud at today’s service.

  • Dear Gloria,
    I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine the courage it took to write that glowing obituary so soon after. My thoughts and condolences are with you.
    Chris and Anne

  • Gloria, my most sincere thoughts are with you and your family. I remember your Father as a man with a most generous spirit, meeting him in 2007 when he came to our office to Volunteer to pick up meals at Allendale for the Meals on Wheels service. He said he could do this for either the Georgetown or Acton location, and this made him quite valued! He was a wonderful Volunteer and we will never be able to measure how many people he helped through his faithful service.
    By reading all the comments, I have been able to learn a little bit more about your very kind and accomplished Father. You must be very proud of him.

  • Thanks, Brooklyn, I bet Charles would be happy to know you like his honey & jelly.

  • Hi Gloria,
    I was glad to be at your father’s burial today.
    It was nice too see that he had so many friends that cared about him.
    Thank you for welcoming me.

  • Anna, we’re honoured that you took time off work to attend.

  • Hi Gloria

    My deepest condolences to you and your family on the loss of your father.

    It was wonderful to see so many people come out to attend your father’s funeral yesterday. I had the privilege to know your father since the early 1980’s. I snowshoed, hiked and cycled with him. He was a great adventurer with a deep love of the outdoors who inspired and touched many of us.

  • Charles was an inspiration to me. I was entranced by tales of his adventures. I enjoyed his leadership and company whether it was snowshoeing, hiking, or biking. Please accept my condolences on your loss.

  • Dear Gloria,
    I am the current Editor of Footnotes, a quarterly publication of the Toronto Bruce Trail Club. This past Saturday we had our AGM and all members were greatly moved to hear of your father’s passing.

    I would like to reprint parts of the memorial & pictures in our Summer issue if you would be ok with that. I would like to make sure that I give proper acknowledgement of the sources. What should I say with regards to the article: “Reprinted from Escarpment Views, by Gloria (sorry I don’t know your last name).

    Again, my deepest condolences to you and your family.

    Kathy Emirzian, Editor, Footnotes, Toronto Bruce Trail Club

  • Thanks Kathy, for contacting me. I’ll get back to you privately about this. We’d be honoured to have you include our father in Footnotes. I’m a Hildebrandt, too!

  • Dear Gloria,
    My husband Bryan and I are thinking of you at this difficult time.

    It was great growing up next to you and your parents; it was refreshing to have such kind and honest persons close by. Your father will be missed.

    Raechelle and Bryan Rauwerda

  • Gloria,

    It’s an end of an era.

    I will always remember and have thoughts of Charles and the gang trudging through the wilderness and coming upon awsome spaces.

    My deepest sympathy. Please send my regards to your sister.


  • Thank you Elise. Raechelle, you are proof of the connecting power of the Internet, as I understand from your mother, my neighbour, that you’re working as a teacher in Australia! Thanks for your comment from the other side of the world.

  • Dear Gloria,
    You don’t know me, but I participated in some of your father’s hikes.
    You had to be in good shape to keep up with him and never complain about the cold to stand around while he was explaining about some plants, or he would say “you better go home right now”. I learned a lot from him…
    He was a real gentleman.
    My deepest sympathy.
    Valerie (Bruce Trail hikes)

  • Dear Gloria and Charles’s family,
    I am so sorry for your loss. Charles was such a “character” – that twinkle in his eye,his visionary contribution to the hiking and snowshoeing possibilities in Ontario and his “can do ” attitude. He made a huge difference to hiking & snowshoeing in Ontario and inspired me hugely in my early days discovering the beauty of Ontario in the 70’s and 80’s.
    My deepest sympathy, Ann Garnett

  • We had the pleasure of Charles’ company again when he decided to come back to us for a gym program in September of last year. His weekly program was a wonderful lesson to us all about not giving up and always striving to beat the odds. Charles and Thomas will be sadly missed by all the staff and many patients who attend our office. Please accept our sincerest condolences.

    Gerry, Kristy and all the staff at Ross Physiotherapy.

  • Hi, Gloria,
    I loved Charles dearly. I spent just about every week-end in the 1970s snowshoeing with him in the winter and many a summer week-end hiking under his able leadership on the Bruce Trail. I was thinking about him tonight and regretting that I hadn’t invited him and your mother to my wedding in 1982, when my son knocked on the door and handed me the Trinity Alumni magazine with the sad news. I’ve been living in Switzerland since 1997, a country I first visited with Charles and Richard and Maria Longley (message above). Charles was a character, a gentleman, a scholar, and had a wonderful sense of humor. I learned a lot from him. My deepest condolences on your loss.
    Ruth Taylor Anderson, Geneva, Switzerland

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