Donald Arthur Hillman, 92, of Aitkin, passed away Tuesday, January 12, 2021, at Aitkin Health Services. He was born April 13, 1928, in Aitkin to John and Edythe (Skatt) Hillman. He was united in marriage to Catherine Ann Keena on September 22, 1956, at St. Mark’s parish in St. Paul. They were married for 53 years.
Donald was the grandson of Swedish immigrants: Per Magnus and Brita Regina (Johansdotter) Hellman and Carl John and Sigrid Erika (Carlson) Skatt. The Hellmans (later changed to Hillman) emigrated from Brunflo, Jamtland, Sweden, in September 1889, along with their young sons Per Albert and John Paul, adding daughters Sophie, Hulda, and Ida to their family after settling in Nordland township. Donald attended the Glory school through 8th grade, left school to help his parents and grandparents, and later earned his GED. He fought in the Korean War, proudly serving in the U.S. Army’s 5th Infantry Regiment, Company A, from December 1950 to June 1952. Donald, Catherine, and their children lived on a dairy farm just down the road from his parents’ farm from 1956 until 1976, when they moved to Lone Lake.
Donald had a broad range of work experiences. As a young man, he worked with his father at harvest time in the fields of North Dakota. He later worked in the Cuyuna iron ore mines and in local construction, while also milking cows every day. He enjoyed the years he spent at Mille Lacs Electric Cooperative (MLEC) and treasured the friendships he made there. He and Catherine loved traveling and visited Alaska, Hawaii, and Europe (England, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, and Denmark). Donald was known for his storytelling and for his detailed memories of the past. His stories were a highlight of every gathering of friends and relatives. He also was known for his kindness and generous spirit. Over many years, he visited and helped elderly neighbors living alone. He was a member of the Aitkin American Legion and of the Isle VFW. He loved to hunt and fish. He was happiest in his fish house, in a boat fishing, or surrounded by family and friends. Donald was a loving person whose optimism, good humor, and desire to help uplifted all who knew him. He will be greatly missed, but his spirit lives on. The Hillman family is grateful to those who enriched his life in recent years, especially the caring staff of Aitkin Health Services, the community groups who support veterans or bring cheer to local nursing home residents, and the local pastors who visited him regularly.
Donald was preceded in death by his wife, Catherine; his parents; and sisters, Marjorie Way, Ione Tronson, Audrey Nordgren, Clarice Jackman, and Marlys Hillman.
Donald is survived by son, Eric (Beth) Hillman; two daughters, Caroline (Brian) Warden, and Sheila Hillman; grandchildren, Emily (Kareem) Mroue, Joseph (Hannah) Hillman, John Hillman, Ben Hillman, Mike Hillman, Billy Hillman, Erin Warden, Nathan Warden and Megan Warden; great-grandson Cameron Mroue; brothers, Robert (Karen) Hillman and Terry (Ellen) Hillman; brothers-in-law Richard Jackman and Tom (Lori) Keena; and several nieces and nephews, other relatives, and friends.
Services for Donald Hillman will be held this summer. To leave an online condolence, go to: www.srtfuneral.com. Arrangements are with Sorensen-Root-Thompson Funeral Home and Cremation Service, Aitkin.
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