Few people who met Charlie Hilton would ever forget the great character he was.
He left an indelible mark wherever he went and whatever he did. His passing last month was a life cut short but it has made us all reflect on a life well-lived.
Charlie and his wife Karen had four children and they farmed the well-known property Carousel, midway between Bordertown and Keith.
Some 25 years ago I first started working with Charlie when he studied the Certificate 4 in Farm Management course at tafeSA.
Every workshop and tutorial that Charlie was involved in was always a heap of fun.
He had an innate ability to make the people near him feel happy.
In later years I mentored Charlie in his pursuit of a Nuffield Scholarship, which he was duly awarded – a very deserving outcome.
Upon his return from his overseas studies, he was adamant the lucerne industry needed a peak body and he lead the establishment of Lucerne Australia.
Charlie put to good use a lot of what he had learned overseas and his passion for the soil he farmed was evident.
He set up his own on farm liquid fertiliser plant for the production of foliar fertilisers. He was never afraid to invest in research.
Fellow Nuffield scholar and long-time mentor Brendon Smart described Charlie as a fun-loving, cheeky, happy, devoted, innovative and committed friend – and possibly a larrikin, in the nicest way.
Long-time employee Richard Martin said Charlie was always thorough and fair in business and never too judgmental with people.
He said Charlie’s understanding of the biology and physiology of all things living on his farm was extensive, but it was his passion for livestock that was foremost.
For Richard, the word he found that best described Charlie was “awesome”.
How many people could say that about their boss?
In essence Charlie and Richard were work colleagues rather than employer and employee.
I will never forget doing a staff recruitment consultation for Charlie and Karen and, while on the tour of the farm with an applicant and his wife, whom we had met just an hour earlier, we all experienced something unforgettable.
Charlie had a quarry and as he approached it, he sped up and distracted us by pointing out something to the side.
We then became airborne and landed at the base of the quarry. It scared the living daylights out of all us unsuspecting passengers while Charlie laughed.
The aspiring employee got to know the real Charlie from the word go. Charlie was his own unique person.
Good mate Rick Hinge, Mundulla, said he admired Charlie for the way he kept calm in stressful times, and for the way he was in constant search of knowledge.
He had an unwavering commitment and love for his family and friends and he had a keenness for the long chat with people from all walks of life, Rick said.
Former Lucerne Australia chief executive officer Nicola Raymond remembers Charlie for his boundless energy and his love for the river and fishing as a way to relax.
She said Lucerne Australia is just one of many legacies Charlie leaves behind.
In my early life my mother wrote the following in my autograph book: “Good better best, never let it rest until the good is the better and the better is the best”.
This describes Charlie’s approach to life.
We should not wait until somebody dies to realise we never really got around to telling them how much we appreciated their talents and friendship.
Charlie would not have expected it but he deserved any accolade that came his way.
All those who knew Charlie are better for the experience.
We extend our very best wishes to Karen, Justine, Brady, Brooke and Lexi at this difficult time.
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