Lifelong Wyomingite Robert Hildebrand celebrated his 100th birthday in Dubois on February 17th, 2020. He had a birthday party with family and friends at Warm Valley Lodge on Saturday.
Robert was born in Careyhurst, Wyoming, which is located between Douglas and Casper. He shared there wasn’t much in Careyhurst, but there was a grocery store. His grandparents moved to Careyhurst from Germany when his father was18 months old. Robert’s grandfather worked on the railroad.
Robert’s dad turned to more an agricultural means of making a living in Careyhurst. “My dad was a sheepman on the north side of the river, and my uncles were all cowmen,” Robert shared. “They got into a lot of arguments.” When school wasn’t in session for the summer, Robert spent time living in a sheep wagon and helping with the family herd. “It’s pretty simple to live in a sheep wagon. Everything is really convenient.” His family’s sheep wagon is now on display at the Douglas Pioneer Memorial Museum. “When I was in high school, I could shear 50 sheep an hour with hand clippers.” His dad also gave him 100 head of sheep for FFA in high school.
Thank you to the Wyoming Pioneer Memorial Museum for sending us the above photos of the Hildebrand sheep wagon on display there.
In 1949, his dad and four of Robert’s eight siblings moved to Wenatchee, Washington, after selling their land and sheep herd in Careyhurst. Fortunately, this happened before the January blizzard swept through the area, Robert noted.
He spent around 65-70 years living in Casper wearing several different hats as a mechanic, business owner, Church of Christ preacher, the mayor, and a city council member. When asked about being the Mayor of Casper in the 1960s, Robert said, “It was an experience.”
In 1942, Robert was drafted into the Air Force and served three years. He was assigned to the 5th Air Force in the Pacific area. He attributes being drafted into the Air Force precisely because he took a home course in aeronautics while in high school, and that was on his resume. During his time serving, he was stationed in Hawaii, Florida, and Japan.
Following his service, Robert returned to Casper, where he was a mechanic at the Chevrolet Dealership for many years. He then opened a brake and alignment shop called Lacey’s Brake and Alignment. He was also very active in Casper politics, becoming a council member and the mayor.
“In 1960, Casper changed from the mayor form of government to city manager form of government,” Robert said. “I had the initiative to be one of the councilmen, that made nine of us, on the first city council in Casper.” Not long after being sworn in, “we found out that Casper was in debt over two million dollars. Each of us decided not to take a salary other than $10 a year, which was given to us at Christmastime for several years.” To help repay the debt, “we initiated the sales the tax there.” People didn’t like to pay it, he continued, but we did it to bring in money for the city. “It only took 2.5-3 years to pay the debt off. It had to be renewed every four years, and it’s still going,” he shared proudly.
Robert shared the following newspaper clippings from the Casper Star-Tribune of him as the Mayor of Casper in 1967.
He retired in Casper but kept busy maintaining washers and dryers he had in apartment buildings. He also continued preaching for the Church of Christ until he was 98 for a total of sixty-eight years. In 1996, he spent time with the Church of Christ in India on a mission from the Casper church. He still emails with preachers there, he shared. “The Church of Christ in Casper had been sending support down to preachers in India.” They have a school in India to teach preaching, and during his mission, he handed out certificates to twenty-two graduates. “The school is still going on in India,” he noted.
I think the reason I had too many dreams was that I had too many projects in my lifetime.
About two years ago, Robert moved to Lander to be closer to family. Lander is also his favorite place ever, he explained. Also, the assisted living center he lived in Lander had great Pinochle games with lots of people. He loves the game and has a hard time finding people to play at Warm Valley Lodge. He also misses watching the snowfall in Lander out of the big windows. He moved to Dubois last year.
He attributes his longevity to not taking medications and finding healthy, cancer-killing recipes. He’s also led an active lifestyle. He helped his brother with branding and calving until into his 90s. He loves playing pool, horseshoes, and bowling. He also participated in the Wyoming Senior Olympics into his 90s. “I used to go to the state fair and play in horseshoe contests,” he said. “I got quite a few ribbons from pool and horseshoes. Square dancing, golfing, and snowmobile racing also made the list of activities he did, as well as water skiing and hunting.
He was also an avid gardener, and one year, he had four potatoes that each weighed a pound. He won ribbons for them at the fair.
The advice he shared was, “Get a purpose in your mind and heart to try and make things better to live in in the good old USA.”
Happy 100th birthday, Robert!