Remembered by his friends and family for his interest in the community and politics, longtime Abilene community leader, Ralph Hilton, 77, died on Friday.

Hilton was a former Abilene city commissioner and mayor. He unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination for the Kansas House of Representatives.

Hilton opened Abilene Printing in 1971 and it was through the printing of newsletters, brochures and business cards that kept him up to date with local activities and interests.

“He was extremely loyal to Abilene and I think some of that was being in the printing part,” said Dickinson County Commissioner Lynn Peterson, who also was an Abilene City Commissioner. “Whether it was the fair, the greyhound people years ago, he immersed himself into what was going on in the community. He used to print the school newspaper, too.”

Hilton was supportive of most community projects, said Paul Schmitt.

“He had an interest in things being done in a manner that didn’t have overrun costs,” he said. “His main interests were the medical community, that it was strong, and that the schools were strong in the community.

“He was not an overly opinionated type of man, but he was solid in his convictions,” he said.

Peterson said that the technology of the printing business evolved, so did Abilene Printing.

Ron Shouse, a longtime Abilene businessman, said Hilton was always interested in current events.

“He took an active part and was easy to visit with,” Shouse said. “He was a good listener.”

Shouse said Hilton was an active reader with an extensive library. The last book that he purchased was “Fear: Trump in the White House” by Bob Woodward.

“Many of the books were signed by the author,” Shouse said. “He was very interested in politics. He knew a lot about history and could quote the facts. You wouldn’t want to argue with him because he pretty well had it down. He had a lawyer’s mind. He kind of put me to shame with all of his knowledge.

“And he was not boastful with it. He was very laid back,” Shouse said.

Some of his hobbies were woodworking, sailing, and snow skiing.

“He had a nice shop in the garage,” Shouse said. “He was very particular. He wanted things to be right when he was done with them.”

He said Hilton had just purchased a sailboat with the intention of fixing it up to take his grandchildren sailing.

Hilton was a charter member of the Southwind Yacht Club at Milford Lake.

“He loved classical music and John Denver while his radio was always tuned to NPR,” said his brother-in-law Jan Kessinger.

Kessinger quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by healthy child, a garden patch, or with redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

“Emerson described the life of Ralph Hilton,” Kessinger said.

Hilton is survived by his wife Judy, sons Sean David Hilton (Kristine Meyer) of Abilene and Robin Dean Hilton (Stephanie Oura) of Arlington, VA, and daughter Shannon Leigh Kelman (David) of Westwood, KS.

Grandchildren are Ashton, Laila, George and Clementine. He is also survived by brothers David Hilton and June of Olathe and George F. Hilton, Jr. (J.R.) of Long Beach, CA.

At his request, there will be no funeral service. Family visitation will take place Friday, 5 to 7 PM at First United Methodist Church in Abilene.

Contact Tim Horan at

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