William Hilts
William Alexander Garvie Hilts
  • 38 years old
  • Date of birth: Feb 22, 1977
  • Place of birth:
    London, Ontario, Canada
  • Date of passing: May 22, 2015
  • Place of passing:
    Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada
Let the memory of William be with us forever

William Hilts                                                                                                  

1977 – 2015

William Hilts died on Friday May 22nd, doing what he loved, flying a water bomber fighting forest fires in northern Alberta.  He was 38.  He leaves behind his parents, Maria and Stewart Hilts, his younger brother Matthew and his wife Paula, his sister Katherine and her husband Darryl, his nephew Jaxson, and his grandmother Rosa Gallo, as well as many other aunts, uncles and cousins.  He also leaves a very strong network of friends in BC and elsewhere, many with ties to the flying community.

William took his pilot training at Confederation College in Thunder Bay, later flying for Kenora Air Services, Turtle Airways in Fiji, Harbour Air out of Prince Rupert, and Wasaya Airways in northern Ontario.  He worked his way to his dream job flying water bombers for Conair in BC and Alberta starting four years ago.  He was part of the team fighting the Cold Lake fire when his plane went down.

The family would appreciate stories, memories and photos from his friends. If you feel so compelled, donate to a charity of your choice in memory of Will. 

Two services have been arranged to celebrate William. One will be in Ontario and the other will be in BC.

The memorial service in Ontario will be held in Markdale on Saturday July 18, 2015 with the visitation starting at 12:00pm, the service at 2:00pm and with a reception to follow.

Annesley United Church
82 Toronto Street
Markdale ON, N0C 1H0

The memorial service in British Columbia will be held in Langley on Friday October 2, 2015 starting at 2:00pm.

Christian Life Assembly
21277 56 Avenue
Langley BC, V2Y 1M3

William will also be honoured at the Fallen Firefighters memorial in Hinton, Alberta on September 30, 2015 at 10:00am.

Hinton Training Centre 
1176 Switzer Drive
Hinton, Alberta 

If for some reason you are unable to post pictures, tributes or stories, please feel free to email Katherine at ksaynor@outlook.com or Matthew at oldbill_667@hotmail.com and we will be sure to post them on your behalf. 

Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Sandra Muench on 28th December 2015

"I still think of you and miss you everyday.  I miss your terrible sense of humour, your caring smile and your encouraging words.  I remember last Christmas you telling me about how you had called home for Christmas and you wish you could be with your family.  How you felt better that your Dad sounded healthier.  How excited you were to hear that your sister was pregnant and you were going to be an uncle again.  How you couldn't wait for spring and fire season to start.  
You told me to not have regrets in life.  To chase my dreams.  To make changes when necessary.  It's been very hard but I am trying and I know you are encouraging me from where you are.  

Love you and miss you dearly.  My heart still hurts that you are gone."

This tribute was added by Brad Blois on 16th October 2015

"On October 10th we had a small, informal celebration of Will in Seal Cove, Prince Rupert.  Although not a formal ceremony it was special in that many very close friends joined together after many years to celebrate the amazing life of Will Hilts.  The following is my very personal reflection on a once in a lifetime friendship which I wrote and shared with friends in Seal Cove.  Since it was also a part of Wills life I would like to share it with you his friends and family.

I first met Will 15 years ago. I was working for Red Lake airways Will for Kenora Air. I can’t specifically say we were friends, it was an occasion meeting while I was there for maintenance and it was only a few times. Other than bouncing a few potatoes off the side of the ferry SS Kenora from with a massive hairspray powered potato cannon the only real memory I have of Will from that time was one afternoon I was southbound from deer lake to Selkirk Mb and Will was northbound in the piston  Otter  with Norm. Norm was a legend in the north and a master Otter pilot. I think Will was getting checked out with an external load. They had a boat tied to the side and were chugging along on a hot summer day heading really far north. I asked them why they were only at 3000 feet when they were heading so far north to which Norm calmly explained that in a piston Otter 3000 feet was high enough to glide somewhere when you had an engine failure but not too high that you would burn up before getting there.

So officially Will and I met and became friends right here in Seal Cove in October 2003. I showed up to visit my buddy Gord who was working at Inland Air and I planned to ride my motorcycle down the west coast to Mexico and back. I was offered a job and ended up staying and the rest of the story everyone here knows. I look back at the years in Seal Cove with Will and our little circle of friends and I see them as some of the best years of my life. Great friends, great flying, great times. We hunted, we fished, we shared dreams we forged a friendship that would or should have lasted a lifetime.

Eventually the group splintered, Mike Ross left first, then I left, Will left later. Time to chase bigger and better things. I had made up my mind I wanted to live on the Charlottes and I had to find some money to make that a reality. Will was pursuing the means to get hired by Conair. We drifted apart, lost contact and the daily grind of life continued.

I’ve always found that the mark of a true friendship was the inability of time to affect the quality of the bond. Such was the relationship I had with Will. After 3 or 4 years of silence he came back, and we picked up exactly where we left off. Hunting, fishing, long periods of whiskey philosophy by the fireplace. We had finally arrived at the end of the beginning of our dreams.

Tragically and unbelievably all of that ended on May 22. He was a son to my parents, a father to my sons, and truly my best friend. I loved him in every sense of the word. In the void he leaves behind I find myself wishing I could see him one more time because I would say this:

Dear Will;

Thank you. Thank you for everything. Thank you for always being that reasonable intelligent decision maker while we dared the stormy skies around Prince Rupert. Thank you for all those times when being headstrong and impatient I was charging out into the wind and swells and you said "Fuck it lets go drink some more coffee!" Thank you for the times when I couldn’t be swayed and you were my reluctant wing man. Thank you for pointing out every time I was a jackass by telling me simply "Jackass!"

Thank you for defending me when I deserved it, and even when maybe I didn't. Thank you for years of patient friendship, for sharing the rivers, and the woods and the beaches and backroads of Haida Gwaii. Thank you for sharing your books with me, even if I was bad at returning them. Thank you for helping me fill my wood shed and freezer before winter. Thank you for working until midnight the night before I left for Antarctica as we triumphantly raised my wind turbine into the sky to provide power to my family for the winter.

Thanks for being a father to my sons during my long and difficult absences from their lives. Thank you for the 14 hours spent crawling around in my filthy, damp, cold spider infested basement crawl space insulating my floors so that my family would be warm for the winter. Thank you for not killing my wife when after emerging from said basement 14 hours later and being asked "What’s for supper?"

Thank you for keeping my family safe when things went sideways. Thank you doing all of this without ever having been asked or expected to. Thank you for having the intelligence and sense of adventure to see my dreams, my plans and vision for the future when everyone else thought I was crazy.

Most importantly, and from the bottom of my heart thank you for being my friend when it was very difficult to be my friend. I wouldn't be standing here today with a happy healthy family if you hadn't been that friend.

Thank you Will."

This tribute was added by Brad Blois on 29th July 2015

"It was a cold morning here on the ranch so we enjoyed our coffee in front of a nice fire from that red cedar we cut back in February. Everyone on the ranch is always thinking about Will and missing him every day in everything we do."

This tribute was added by Susan Armstrong on 7th July 2015

""The Eagle and the Hawk" (John Denver)


I am the eagle, I live in high country
In rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky,
I am the hawk and there's blood on my feathers,
But time is still turning, they soon will be dry,
And all of those who see me, and all who believe in me
Share in the freedom I feel when I fly."

This tribute was added by Katherine Saynor on 18th June 2015

"Celebrating Will

Below is the information for the two memorial services that have been arranged so far.

The memorial service in Ontario will be held in Markdale on Saturday July 18, 2015 with the visitation starting at 12:00pm, the service at 2:00pm and with a reception to follow.

Annesley United Church
82 Toronto Street, Markdale ON
N0C 1H0

The memorial service in British Columbia will be held in Langley on Friday October 2, 2015 starting at 2:00pm.

Christian Life Assembly
21277 56 Avenue, Langley BC
V2Y 1M3

Please feel free to forward this information to anyone who wishes to attend that may not see this message. Thank you."

This tribute was added by Jerry Singh on 14th June 2015

"Will and I first greeted each other on   the challenging northern BC Coast while flying seaplanes out of Prince Rupert.  Will was always friendly and courteous towards me, and we shared some comical stories  about flying for  Turtle Air in Fiji.

Besides being an excellent,  experienced  pilot......Will Hilts was a fine gentleman, willing to help others, an honest man, kind,... and a man worth remembering.  

Present ....and former North BC coast seaplane pilots are like a band of brothers......and Will Hilts...one of our brothers will truly be missed.

...........Rest In Peace bother Will........"

This tribute was added by Alain Charest on 14th June 2015

"Dear Maria and Stew,
It is only now that I read about your terrible news on Stew's blog. I am terribly sorry to read about Will's death. You must have been very proud of all his achievements. From what I read, he seems to have been an exceptional person. He must leave a terrible hole in your life. My thoughts are with you and your family and I offer you my deepest sympathy."

This tribute was added by Steven Correll on 14th June 2015

""On The Wings Of An Eagle"

Oh, my home is in the mountains, I am free, I am free.
I am one with wind and eagles, I am free. Given wings to sail in gracefulness, the sky, the sky.
Given a voice to sing in breathlessness, I find that I can fly, fly away.

I've been a long time on the highway, I've been a long time on the run.
And it gets to be like chaos when I'm so long away from home.
And sometimes it's just to much to bare and I hide behind my eyes.
I can picture friendly faces and I can dream of friendly skies.
And I guess that I'm a lucky one for the truth of what I know.
For my heart had not denied me and I have somewhere to go.
I shall never be a prisoner of steel and glass and stone.
If I leave, I will return again to my Rocky Mountain home.

Oh, my home is in the mountains, I am free, I am free.
I am one with wind and eagles, I am free. Given wings to sail in gracefulness, the sky, the sky.
Given a voice to sing in breathlessness, I find that I can fly, fly away.

In the hands of my father, in the light of the sunshine. On the wings of an eagle, I'm flying again.
I'm flying again, I'm flying again, I'm flying again, I'm flying again.

John Denver."

This tribute was added by Katherine Saynor on 12th June 2015

"For those who didn't see the article on William in Maclean's this week, you can find it at:  http://www.macleans.ca/society/life/william-alexander-garvie-hilts-1977-2015/"

This tribute was added by Stew Hilts on 12th June 2015

"Celebrations for Will

We are now planning two celebrations of Will's life, both here in Ontario and in B.C.  The service here will be held at Annesley United Church in Markdale on July 18th, at 2 p.m. with visitation from 12, and a reception afterwards.  The service in B.C. will be held just after fire season ends, on Oct. 2nd, and will be in Langley.  Further details to come."

This tribute was added by Stew Hilts on 4th June 2015

"I wanted to let you know that William will be featured on the back page of Maclean's magazine, as an 'interesting Canadian' who has passed away recently.  We understand that it's the issue that hits newstands today."

This tribute was added by Jo-Anne Rzadki on 3rd June 2015

"Stew, Maria, Kathryn and Matthew and Family:  We were so very saddened to learn of William's passing.  Please know that our thoughts are with you at this very difficult time. wishing you some comfort in your memories.  Sincerely, Jo-Anne Rzadki and Tom Moull"

This tribute was added by Reapi Nayacakalou on 31st May 2015

"I knew Will when he joined us at Turtle Airways Fiji as a pilot. Will was a very decent guy and had a great sense of humor. I will always remember his favorite quote...you are not a pilot until you have had a romp with the clouds. It deeply saddens me to hear of Wills passing from Treasure Marshall also a colleague and a co pilot at Turtle Airways. We have always been catching up and chatting on Facebook and he was always remarking that he missed Fiji alot....I know that you are having some of the best flights of your life and enjoying your new wings my friend! May your soul Rest in Peace forever...forever remembered....."

This tribute was added by carol mills on 30th May 2015

"I will always remember the times we shared as kids at Nana and Grandpas. Trying to beat the boys at ping pong in the basement, golfing in the backyard, watching grandpa and his magic coin trick. Great memories to look back on as we reflect on Williams life."

This tribute was added by Jan Pratschke on 29th May 2015

"Will was one of my closest friends while growing up in Guelph.   He was funny and smart, sometimes a little gruff, always sarcastic.  Beneath his gruffy exterior he was kind and generous.  We drove across the country with a cooler of deer meat on the roof.  "this'll keep us going for a while" he said.   It did.   He had his priorities in line.  We ate dinner at the ping pong table, listened to a lot of John Denver.    

4 of us bought a vehicle that may have been unfit for the road, and  went for a drive south.  We cut the roof off 'cause it was gonna be warm where we were going.  We had some vehicle related issues along the way, but Will was one of those folks who made you feel like everything was gonna be ok.  He also was one of those guys who brought tools.

We didn't see each other much in the last few years.  He stopped by a couple of years ago with a cooler full of salmon in the truck, on his way somewhere to visit someone.   He was easy company, a solid friend, consistent and as genuine as they get...always easy to pick up where we left off.    I'll miss him.   My sincerest condolences to his family and to everyone else who shared time with him."

This tribute was added by steve copeland on 29th May 2015

"I had the great pleasure of working with Will last summer in Lac La Biche. He was such an easy going guy to get along with and his humour off the charts.I am not going to forget our many nights on the hotel porch having a few pops after a long days work.You will be sorely missed.."

This tribute was added by Jane Lewington on 29th May 2015

"Hello Stew - I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your son, Will. He sounds like he was a pretty amazing fellow! My heartfelt condolences to you and your family. Sincerely, Jane Lewington"

This tribute was added by Jarrett Austin on 29th May 2015

"I had the pleasure of working with Will when he was based in Lac La Biche during the 2013 and 2014 fire seasons. He always had a laid back approach and his quick wit never failed to deliver. I was excited to see him arrive with the emergency hire Fireboss group last week.

Although the time was brief, I am thankful for the opportunity to have known Will and will miss him very much"

This tribute was added by sarah jell on 28th May 2015

"I first met Will in Minaki ON, one summer when he was flying for Kenora air. He was out visiting Brodie, who was flying for River air here in town. They came into the bar and we chatted a bit then they left, only to return much later in need of a tow... We went to see what the problem was, and they had backed down into a culvert at the end of a dead end road by the Minaki lodge. We weren't able to pull them out so we gave them a ride back to river air. When we dropped them off, as I backed out I looked forward again briefly to see them highlighted in my headlights, suddenly naked and running for the lake! I nearly hit the propane tank on my way out. We went back into town, and I put a note on their dashboard saying I hoped they flew better than they drove with my phone number. Will called. We dated a few years, and he was the best person you could ever meet. He knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life, was honest, warm loving and fun. Because I knew my dreams would hold his back, we broke up. But we always stayed in touch. He was always on my mind and in my heart. I talked to him Thursday night before he died, and will treasure the fact that I got to hear his voice that one last time. I loved the way he said hello. So heartbroken that he's gone. My deepest condolences to you, Stew, Maria, Katie and Mathew, and the whole family. He will be missed."

This tribute was added by Susan Martin on 28th May 2015

"Stew and Maria......Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family in the loss of William.  Reading the tributes to him and knowing, as you have said, that he was doing what he loved and was making a difference in the world, tells me what a special person he was.  Your loss is also our loss of a wonderful man... but what a contribution he made.  Blessings to you both   Larry and Susan"

This tribute was added by Mike Puddister on 28th May 2015

"Stew and Maria, so very sorry to hear about Will's passing. He obviously had the same passion for life and doing good work that you have demonstrated so many times. Our thoughts are with you. Take Care!"

This tribute was added by Marilyn White on 28th May 2015

"Maria and Stew and family - our hearts go out to you with the loss of Will. He was doing the job he loved and as a fire fighter, he was helping so many others in their time of need. From reading all these tributes, he has touched so many people and will be greatly missed. God Bless Him."

This tribute was added by Yannick Longpre on 28th May 2015

"I first met Will while I was working as a freight guy at North Pacific SeaPlanes in Prince Rupert . This guy was awesome. He was always kind to me, I was learning english and Will was always there to help me out with some issues with the language. I had some seaplanes trips with him , always had some fun . I'ts so sad to hear of his passing. I remember his good humour, his way to talk so funny . Really like the guy, a real gentlemen. For you, Will , I will always have thoughts of being living for what you are. You are great to me. I light a candle for you. Live forever"

This tribute was added by Suzanne Wakefield on 27th May 2015

"Dear Stew and Maria,  Earlby and I were so sorry to hear of William's death. Unfortunately we didn't know William well, but to lose a child is so tragic. It was wonderful to read how he realized his dreams..an inspiration for many."

This tribute was added by chris holt on 27th May 2015

"I flew with Will for the better part of two years. He was my Captain on the Hawker. I never once doubted Will as a pilot. He had confidence in his abilities and for good reason. I always liked Will's honest style and I'd follow that guy anywhere. He was a great guy to fly with and became an equally good friend to spend time with. We flew together, we hunted together, we fished together, we'd jabber on about hockey over a beer and once in awhile we even laughed together ;-) He was a good friend and I'll miss him. My deepest condolences go out to his family and his friends. You're a beauty Will."

This tribute was added by Heather Snider on 27th May 2015

"I met Will about 15 years ago in Guelph, and had the pleasure of really getting to know him when Jill and I joined him, Jan, Ben and Ian in Costa Rica for a few weeks that fall. Not long after that trip a bunch of us landed in Vancouver, and Will was a regular fixture in our cheap basement apartment. We shared lots of laughs and lots of drinks over that time, and Will even managed to convince our landlord to give him a parking space for his boat. Then Will and Jill jetted off to Fiji, I graduated to a main floor apartment, and I never did figure out what the landlord did with that boat! One of my last memories of Will was his hospitality when they hosted my husband's band (and entourage) as we made our way to the Edge of the World festival in Haida Gwai.

I will remember Will as a gentle soul who had a great laugh and the enviable quality of knowing exactly what he wanted to do with his life. Rich and I pass along our deepest condolences to his family and friends. He was a great guy, and he will be missed."

This tribute was added by Greg Boyachuk on 27th May 2015

"My favorite memories of Will, will always include bonfires, guitars,  laughter, good friends and happiness.

It was an honour to work with you my friend.
I will always remember and savour those memories!

You will be missed!"

This tribute was added by Shara Blackmore on 27th May 2015

"I have so many memories of Will, and they started the day he walked into my high school math class. He dropped his books on the desk behind me, leaned forward, and said 'hey there' and that was that.  Besides showing how superior his math skills were to mine, he had me laughing at his quick wit and shared love of sarcastic humor.

His eyes were so bright and excited when he talked about becoming a pilot. And I can clearly remember my fear when he said he wanted to fly water bombers, but he wasn't one to give in to fear.  He lived his dream and never stopped encouraging (let's be honest, lecturing) me to live mine. In fact, he was doing just that in one of our last conversations. I am proud to have known and loved him. And I am so grateful that even though we lost touch from time to time during the past 21 years, that we were always able to reconnect and catch each other up about our lives.

When I left for university he made me a mixed tape and being the sappy sentimentalist that I am, I still have it.  He laughed and got a real kick out of that fact when I told him about it a couple of years ago. The lyrics from one of the songs are:

"Wherever I go, I take you with me."

And I always will. Rest easy, my friend."

This tribute was added by Samantha Collins-McCleave on 27th May 2015

"Will and I were good friends in high school.  I have so many great memories of him, but mostly I remember the countless hours we spent talking on the phone, often late into the night.  Will was witty, charming and always compassionate.  Although we lost touch many years ago, I will always have fond memories of his loyal friendship."

This tribute was added by Francois Longpre on 27th May 2015

"When you are new in town it is nice to meet a guy that make you feel that you are part of the team right away ... Will was this guy for me. The senior pilot that he was at that time was humble and never hesitated to voice his opinion loud and clear when safety was compromised. I will always remember those end of the day beers and wings at Sally's and especially that night when Will, the shorter guy in the pub, got in between this as big as a fridge guy and one of our fellow pilot friend! Even tough our friend might deserved a punch, Will got one instead and never backed out!

Will, I wish I could have one more beer with you to talk and see this accomplished man who reached is dream job of bombing for Conair. I am sure that you had sparkles in your eyes until the very last  few seconds of your life.

I will never forget you my friend."

This tribute was added by Deborah Mierau on 27th May 2015

"We are so sorry to hear of the passing of our friend Will Hilts. Will was a decent, accomplished and kind person with a great sense of humour. We always enjoyed his company and talked many times of his love for Canada's North. Will was doing what he loved and set out to do with his life. Few can say that. Congratulations Will on a life well spent. Your family can be so proud of you. Garry and I will remember you always."

This tribute was added by Steve Simmons on 27th May 2015

"I had the privilege of driving across the country with Will, our mutual friend Jan, and our buddy Shilo. We had a great time on our trip out to BC, and spent lots of time together on and off over the years since. I liked Will so much I even took Shilo in as my own dog, that unfortunately was also a very sad ending well before his time. My thoughts are with you guys, Stew and Maria, and the rest of the family. I hadn't seen Will much in the last years, but things never skipped a beat when I saw him. He will be greatly missed by many."

This tribute was added by Ray Mcbride on 27th May 2015

"Stew and Maria, Sheila and I were so sorry to hear of the sudden and tragic loss of your son. Sheila is also a first responder (city firefighter), and knows only too well the magnitude of the risks. May Will rest in peace."

This tribute was added by Lori Nicholls on 27th May 2015

"My family lost our home in the Slave Lake wildfire in 2011.  I did not know Will.  But I can tell the families of ALL fire fighters, how truly grateful we are to their service.  I thank Will, I thank his wife for being brave having a husband fighting fires, I thank his parents for raising a man that wanted to grow up and help people he didn't even know.  Thank you.  I am very sorry for your loss."

This tribute was added by Mcneill Angela and Alex on 27th May 2015

"Maria, Stew  and family.  Words can't express how we feel for your loss of Will.  As you know our boys played together and we can relate to lots of fun times.  We know that he was determined to fly and he lived his dream and died doing what he loved.  You are in our prayers and may God give you strength to see you through this difficult time."

This tribute was added by Don Churchill on 27th May 2015

"Stewart and Maria, Sheila and I were deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of Will. Our thought and prayers are with you and your family."

This tribute was added by susan nelson on 27th May 2015

"Maria and Stewart, i am so sorry for your loss. such an accomplished young man he was. You should be so proud of him.
i remember him at Sand lake too, chasing your beagle round and round on the beach."

This tribute was added by Jim Anderson on 27th May 2015

"Awesome "sleeves" and an wry sense of humour. He always made me laugh. I am glad to have known you Will."

This tribute was added by Susan Potter on 26th May 2015

"One of my favourite childhood memories of Will was in the early 90s. We spent hours and hours playing outside at our family cottage at March Break….we skied, tobogganed, ice fished… but our favourite was climbing ‘the mountain’ back behind the cottage. There were a number of injuries as Will and his brother launched themselves down the mountain hitting trees, rocks, and anything else in their path. Will’s family had just got a new video camera and Will decided that this was the perfect opportunity to submit a video to Bob Saget’s hit show America’s Funniest Home Videos. Will and his brother spent days trying to reenact the funniest stunts….we laughed until it hurt, but Will was so proud of his accomplishment…because he truly thought his video would make him famous.

I am so glad I have these memories. xo Susan"

This tribute was added by Sarah Dawkins on 26th May 2015

"I didn't have the pleasure of knowing Willy well, but know many mutual Guelph friends.  I hope it can bring some comfort to the family that on hearing of His passing, a small group gathered to share stories and memories of their experiences with Will.  This world was a better place with Him, He brought a lot of Good times to a lot of Good people, He will be sadly missed!  My deepest sympathies to the whole Family and all of his Friends."

This tribute was added by Elizabeth Layman on 26th May 2015

"May he rest in peace , condolences and prayers to his Family
Fly high in the heavens. God Bless you"

This tribute was added by Eva Rushton on 26th May 2015

"With wings of man you flew on earth, Now with wings of God you fly in heaven ."

This tribute was added by mj HOLMSTROM on 26th May 2015

"When I became Ops Manager for Kenora Air, Will was our dockhand. It was his first job out of college. Everyday he made sure that I knew via his quiet sarcastic humour that he was still not up. To prove his point he would present me with different little idle type busy work items such as a wallet made of duct tape. I asked the chief pilot several times to get Will up but apparently Will was right and this wasn't going to happen. Luckily our old chief pilot of over 30 years, Jack Howard, was still around and I asked him. Jack was reluctant but finally agreed. I went to find Will that night, told him put his beer down, he was flying first thing in the morning. He grumbled that this wasn't going to happen. I told him he was going up with Jack. His eyes got as big as saucers, he stood up, he sat down, he stood up, he turned around and just stared at me. I told him to be down at the dock early for paperwork. We met at 7, he went up at 8. When they landed, Will went to the warehouse and Jack came into the office. I asked Jack how he did. Jack put up his right hand and spread his fingers and said, I've trained many pilots over 30 years and only a handful were naturals and Will is one of them. Will was the last pilot that Jack got up in his career.
Will became my right hand man for many years and I appreciated his common sense approach to problems. With very few words he would hit the nail on the head.  Will  brought Brodie Campbell to our team. The two were inseparable. Kuby called them Jodie and Wilt and after correcting and objecting, they finally just accepted it and remained Jodie and Wilt forever. Kuby passed away the day after Will.
I flew with Will on several occasions. He flew just like Jack.  Quiet, controlled, confident, reassuring to the passenger. His hand movements were like a ballet, slow, calm, deliberate, practised, no jerky, alarming movements.  His landings were perfect and you had to look down to see the water splashing over the floats because you could never tell if you were on the water. Customer after customer praised his airmanship.
Will had a bit of a shrine to his pilot grandfather in the "Hilton" and shared those memories with us. He had a sentimental side that not everyone was allowed to see.
Will was a gifted photographer. We often talked of him making a book out of his pictures of planes. I'm looking at one of my favourites on my wall right now. A rainbow and his first plane, beached, at the end of the rainbow. His love of flying shone through the pictures. I wish I knew how to share his pictures with you. I would post them if I could.
I treasure the fact that Will phoned me about 2 years ago and we talked for over an hour.
I lost my friend and first pilot but aviation lost a natural. It's a tough one."

This tribute was added by Heather Watt on 26th May 2015

"I want to thank Will for helping my sister, Sandra, through a most difficult time in her life.  Though I did not have the fortune to meet him in life, I feel like I know him through the eyes of my sister.  I know first hand the unimaginable pain of losing a child but how joyous it must be to hear how treasured he was to others and how richly he lived life.  As parents, you must be so very proud of him.  My sincerest condolences to all Will's family and friends.


This tribute was added by Sandra Muench on 26th May 2015

"My dearest Will
You were a shining light in my life when I desperately needed someone.  You took my hand and led me out of the darkness I was in.  You never judged and were always there to listen and encourage me.  You are the kindest gentlest man I have ever met and I am privileged to have known you.  You will be sorely missed and I am broken hearted that I didn't get to spend more time with you.  I know you are flying high in the sky doing what you love most.  I will always remember you.
Love Sandra"

This tribute was added by Katherine Saynor on 26th May 2015

"Tribute from Rich Tolson

Will was my First Officer for part of a season, on the Convair. He was a great airman and a joy to work with. God speed, Will. You will be missed and forever in my thoughts, buddy!"

This tribute was added by Giuliana Hauknes on 26th May 2015

"I had the pleasure of meeting Will when we worked together at North Pacific Seaplanes.  We quickly became good friends when I let him help himself to my packed lunch every day!   Will was one of the best people to enter my life and I feel so fortunate to have had him in it.  You are forever in my heart and memories Will."

This tribute was added by John Verdone on 26th May 2015

"Maria, Stew, Katie and Matt it is with tears in our eyes that Kay and I are sending our deepest heart felt condolences for the loss of Will. We can only imagine  the heart ache you are now feeling. We all know Will was doing what he loved best. Flying was his passion, his true love, May the peace of God carry you through this time of sorrow."

This tribute was added by Stew Hilts on 26th May 2015

"We just want to thank all of you who have visited this site, left tributes, or emailed us.  You've given us a wonderful picture of Will as a person,  pilot and friend.  It is so comforting to know that he lived in such a great network of friends and that you all thought so well of him.  We are totally overwhelmed by your words, and the number of visitors.  This site is permanent, so his brother and sister will always be able to look back and remember, thanks to your comments.  Don't worry about what to say or the words to use; knowing that you care is all that matters."

This tribute was added by Ray Horton on 26th May 2015

"Will brought spirit and friendship to Conair and was a valued member of our family. He will rest always in our hearts.  Godspeed Will"

This tribute was added by Corina Balfour on 26th May 2015

"Will and I met about a two and a half years ago, and became close friends immediately. He flew to Edmonton a couple times last winter to hang out, we had so many laughs and great times were had. I regret having missed out on our trip to Tlell this past Christmas, I know it would have been a great one. My parents loved picking his brain about all his flying adventures when we did a road trip out to see them in Cranbrook. He beemed with pride. I went up to Lac la Biche last summer where he got to show off all the places the "boys" hangout and had a great time with Will and the crew.  Although we were always dealing with the issue of distance we always managed to stay very close. I miss you so much, I keep waiting for you to text back so we can finish our conversation."

This tribute was added by Annie Asnong on 26th May 2015

"My prayers and thoughts goes to your family and friends. Thank you for helping us out. Enjoy your new wings."

This tribute was added by susan Gomez on 26th May 2015

"Rest in paradise William Hilts.  Your new wings are magnificent!"

This tribute was added by Brian Langevin on 26th May 2015

"A collegue, a friend - a respected airman.

High Flight
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings,
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a thousand things
You have not dreamed of - Wheeled and soared:
And swung  High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and
Flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue air
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space;
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

RIP Will."

This tribute was added by Pd Julien on 25th May 2015

"I don't know will .have never met this brave man .but my prayers go out to his family and loved ones .he was fighting the fires in cold lake where I live ...Thank you for your bravery rest at peace"

This tribute was added by George Blois on 25th May 2015

"Will was a part of our family when he stayed with us in Tlell on the Haida Gwaii the past two seasons after fire season. He easily fit in and was always able to bring a smile to our face with a funny joke or witty sarcasm. We will miss him.Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones and friends through this time of sorrow."

This tribute was added by Anne Potter on 25th May 2015

"Most of my memories of Will are from when I was really little. Just simple, nice things like sitting on his knee in Nana and Grandpa's living room. He'd be tickling me and making me laugh, and I thought he was so cool. I remember once we were playing and he was lifting me and swinging me around and throwing me up in the air. Although it probably didn't look like it, he told me we were swing dancing. I thought that it was awesome that my big, strong cousin wanted to swing dance with tiny little me. I will always think of him that way. It's my favourite memory of Will and I will cherish it, always. You are a true hero Will, and you are missed dearly. xo"

This tribute was added by Jane Potter on 25th May 2015

"I will always remember crazy adventures with Will and especially
his brother, at our cottage times at Sand Lake. Their mission was to create the perfect luge run and Will and Matt would try skiing, snowboarding and sledding over jumps that were just scary and shocking to me as a little girl. I loved those times and hanging out with my older cousins.  Also remember when I fell in the lake after fishing and my jeans got stuck on me... Will had to pull them off me and I had to be maybe 8, I was so embarrassed that he saw me in my underwear!! You will be so greatly missed Will, you died a hero and I know you are at peace with Nana and Grandpa. Xo Jane"

This tribute was added by Joanne Goodridge on 25th May 2015

"God bless you Will; your Conair family is going to deeply miss you."

This tribute was added by Rachael Laird on 25th May 2015

"Willy's laugh, honest wit...I loved that about him. I'll never forget riding in his truck listening to Beck, wrestling with the guys on a mattress in his living room and just hanging out with a great friend. You'll be missed Will xo"

This tribute was added by Andrea Ravensdale on 25th May 2015

"I met Will in high school. A group if us used to hang out and we sure did laugh a lot. We lost touch after high school but a few years ago when Will was back in town we caught up and reminisced about those crazy years. A few of us from the old group even went to see Kenny Phelps play a show. It was a great night. Rest in peace, Will. You will be missed. Cheers to pool hopping, Sauble Beach and Mr. Angry. :)"

This tribute was added by Tonya Stanley on 25th May 2015

"Dear Will, I got to know you when you were based here in Whitecourt with Group 1. Sharing daily meals with you and your coworkers made me feel like family and I will never forget your kind heart and spirit. My thoughts go out to your family, friends and coworkers. I will remember you.- Tonya"

This tribute was added by Trish Mussato on 25th May 2015

"I had only recently met Will but what fun we had together. I was laughing from the moment we first met.  He was kind, sweet, generous, smart, adventurous and funny ... and wow could he tell a good story! I listened to him for hours talk about all his adventures ... narrowly missing icebergs in the north and crazy times with his friends while driving down to Costa Rica. My time with him was short, but precious. He was a very special."

This tribute was added by Lore Gallo on 25th May 2015

"I'll always remember our family Christmas dinners.  The laughter, the sarcasm, the bad jokes and the lupini beans... The year you accidently pegged off Grandma (aka - the Christmas the lupini was banned) is still fresh in my mind.  I'm going to miss you!"

This tribute was added by ss crerar on 25th May 2015

"Will was truly one of the most honest and sincere people I've ever had the chance of knowing. Not afraid to speak his mind, and made you laugh while doing it. One of the surprisingly few people that chose to fly for the absolute love of being in the air. Many good times were spent with Will among good friends that will never be forgotten. He will be greatly missed."

This tribute was added by Treasure Marshall on 25th May 2015

"Met Will in 2002 when he joined Turtle Airways....a gentleman and a scholar and he also had his moments of funny one liners and witty remarks...will miss him...Rest in peace my brother...till we meet again...an awesome but humble pilot."

This tribute was added by Karen Hipson on 25th May 2015

"Thank you, Mr. Hilts.

We didn't know you, but your loss is still felt in the communities you were working hard to protect.  Your wife, your family, and your friends are in our prayers."

This tribute was added by Pamela Berry on 24th May 2015

"We have so many good memories of Will.He spent many hours at our place with our son Mike in high school.My most memorable time was that Will loved to eat but not until after 3 p.m.I wished that I had had a lock on the fridge after that  time for the fridge was emptied out.He was a kind soul and we will miss him..."

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This memorial is administered by:

Katherine Saynor


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