On the morning of October 20, 2020, Ralph Hilderbrand heard his Lord say “Come to Me” and “Well done, My good and faithful servant”.
Ralph was born on April 28, 1929 in Sioux County, Nebraska to Cora (Mason) Hilderbrand and Ralph Hilderbrand Sr. He was the oldest of 6 children; sisters Juanita, Emma Jean and Mary Corrine and brothers Eddie and Russell, all of whom preceded him in death.
Times were hard, made even more so by the death of their mother when Ralph was 13. He and his siblings became responsible for taking care of themselves until they could be taken in, sometimes working for room and board. Ralph graduated from Sioux County High School, Harrison, NE in 1947 and soon after joined the Armed Forces serving his country as a member of the Navy Seabees, which was a perfect fit for him. He travelled to Europe and Alaska, working at airfields and military installations. He was proud to have served his country and always teared up when asked to “stand up if you are a veteran”.
Upon his return from the service, he met Ardel Murphy (Deljean) and they were married on August 5, 1956 in Crawford, NE. They were together for 64 years.
Ralph took his talents and his experience from the Navy into his lifelong work, first at Fort Robinson in Nebraska and then at Fort Keogh in Miles City. He seemed to have the ability to figure out any problem and fix anything, and if he didn’t have a tool that would work, he would make one. He had a tremendous work ethic, a trait that he passed on to his children and grandchildren. When Ralph wasn’t working, you could find him rooting on the Custer County Cowboys and Cowgirls, watching Cornhusker football or reading a Louis L’Amour or Zane Grey paperback.
Ralph accepted the Lord as his Savior at the age of 8 when he went forward with his mother at a revival near Harrison, NE. As he grew in his faith, much in part to the witness of Deljean, he often talked about what must have been God’s hand of protection on him and his siblings through those early tough times. One story he often told was of fishing one day. He said that there were a lot of other men on the bank, but he was the only one who caught fish and that he caught just enough to feed him and his brothers and sisters. He thought a lot about things like that.
Ralph was a member of The First Baptist Church in Chadron, NE, then of a church he helped build in Crawford, NE. For the last 51 years he has served as a member of the First Baptist Church in Miles City, MT. His relationship with Jesus guided his life. He was a faithful, prayerful man.
Ralph loved his family, his extended family, his church family and countless friends and acquaintances. He showed it through words and hugs, fixing something for someone, and often, if he happened to have one in his pocket, giving out a Werther’s candy. It was one way of telling you that you were important to him.
He is survived by his wife, Deljean, son Mark (Ann), Cori (Cal Schock) and Scott (Kim) and his grandchildren Alex (Chanelle) and Max (Jessica) , Casey and Cody Schock (Zoie Kaupish), and Kolby (Lonnie Christopher), Tanner (Siri Christensen) and Kylie and great grandson Odin. He also is survived by a half-brother, Raymond.
Ralph was admitted to the hospital on the Friday before his death. Because of restrictions, none of his family could be with him. However, through technology, on that last day of Ralph’ life, we were given the precious gift of being able to say goodbye. Ralph left this world with a sweet nurse holding his hand. Ralph often times responded to an “I love you” with “I love you back”. Some of the last words he said were “I love those guys like crazy”. We sure do love you back. So long.
A memorial service will be held on May 1, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. at the First Baptist Church in Miles City. Inurnment will be held at the Eastern Montana Veterans Cemetery with full military honors. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting: www.stevensonandsons.com.