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Wallace James Hilliard of Green Bay, died peacefully March 6, 2023, surrounded by his family after battling with Alzheimer’s for too many years. He was born May 23, 1932, on an 80-acre subsistence farm during the Great Depression and Drought. Wally was the youngest of three boys born to William and Gladys (Kees) Hilliard.
Wally loved to play with matches, an essential item on a farm without electricity. At age 4, his match-loving propensity resulted in a fire that quickly consumed the barn, its equipment, and the winter hay supply. The family was forced to relocate to the edge of the nearest town (Durand) and thereafter Wally was appropriately labeled by his older brothers as the “emancipating pyromaniac”. Wally’s entrepreneurial spirit was forged in his early years by selling eggs, garden produce, newspapers and shining shoes.
Upon graduating high school, Wally enrolled at UW Madison in pursuit of a veterinarian degree. To support himself, he honed his sales skills selling cutlery door to door. One of the sales calls resulted with his meeting of the love of his life, Belvina Tyczkowski. Veterinary school never was Wally’s passion, so he focused his efforts on sales and Belvina. Then eligible for the draft, Wally served 2 years in the army while continuing his courtship. They married in 1957. Belvina persuaded Wally to finish college where he got a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UW Madison. His sales skills were further refined selling chemicals for Monsanto and Roberts companies.
The family began with Dan born in Philadelphia, then Julie in St. Louis, and Janice in Cincinnati. Raising three toddlers in what felt like a foreign land was not working for Belvina, so they packed up and headed back to family and friends in Wisconsin. After a brief stay in Oshkosh, then Shawano, they had their 4th child Andy in 1963. A year later they moved to Green Bay where they finally settled in Schmidt Park for the next thirteen years.
Always the salesman, Wally picked up where he left off years earlier, selling cutlery and pots and pans. A chance meeting with Jim Matthews resulted in a new business partner and a lifelong friendship. Jim eventually persuaded Wally that selling life insurance was more rewarding. Wally became a “porch climbing, doorbell ringing, insurance salesman”.
Soon thereafter, Wally met Jim Weyers who introduced Wally to his brother Ron. Who knew they would form a lifelong bond of friendship and business. Starting an insurance agency in 1970 in Ron’s home, they built Wisconsin Employers Group, eventually Employers Health, into a nationwide insurance company. They ultimately sold their company to American Express in 1982. Wally’s entrepreneurial spirit didn’t stop there. In 1988, Wally started another insurance company called American Medical Security. He quickly realized that he needed his partner Ron, whom he coerced out of retirement. AMS had tremendous growth due to the loyal bonds formed within their insurance family of employees and agents. AMS was sold in 1996. Ron and Wally are fondly remembered as the dynamic duo. Wally went on to start and fund numerous other businesses in Wisconsin and Florida.
Life with Wally was never dull. Although he poured his heart and soul into the insurance business, Wally made time for family fun and many memorable vacations. Boating excursions on the Great Lakes, houseboat adventures on the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers, ski trips to the U.P. and out West, hunting and fishing trips and many more great times. And of course, who can forget his love for flying and what adventures those flights brought! The family is forever grateful for their father’s adventurous spirit and the opportunities he provided for them to experience many more adventures.
Wally was a fierce competitor with a drive like none other, whether he was golfing, playing ping-pong, running one of his many marathons or checkers with good friend Jim Halron. His passion for life and drive for excellence made a lasting impression on all who met and lived with him. Wally had two other marriages, the last to Patricia. He adopted her five children, Katherine, Kennedy, Alexandria, Gabriella and Annabella.
Wally is survived by his oldest brother Paul (Madlyn) Hilliard. He will be lovingly remembered by his children Dan (Amy) Hilliard, Julie (Neal) Maccoux, Janice (Mark) Hilliard, Andy (Renee) Hilliard and Jonathan (Laurie) Fischer. He will also be missed by grandchildren Aubrey (Josh), Lauren (Dan), Taylor (Connor), Kaitlyn, Nat, David (Andrea), Hunter & Jacob and five great grandchildren.
Wally spent the last four years residing at Alpha Senior Concepts. We cannot thank the staff at Alpha enough for their kindness, care, attention and understanding of who Wally was and had become. We also want to thank the nurses of Moments Hospice who spent many hours caring for Wally this past year. Though Wally’s health declined, his longing for female companionship never failed him. The nurses and care givers were touched daily by Wally’s sincere “you are beautiful” and “are you married?” He was no quitter.
A private funeral service will be held with family. A Celebration of Life will be held on Friday, May 5th from 3 pm until about 5pm at the Green Bay Community Church. Additional celebration will follow at Townline Pub & Grill.
A private burial will follow in Durand, Wisconsin, as Wally wished to be buried with where he was born and raised surrounded by his parents and relatives.
In lieu of flowers, monetary donations can be made to the Hilliard Family Foundation, which is supported by the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation. Any donations will be directed to Wally’s favorite charity, the Boys & Girls Club of Green Bay and the Alzheimer’s Association.
More information can be found on the Lyndahl Funeral Home website, www.lyndahl.com/obituary/WallaceWally-Hilliard