On Monday, August 16th, 2021, Paul Hilton, a loving partner, brother, father, grandfather, and uncle passed away of a heart attack at the age of 61, surrounded by his family. Ever since his birth in Southsea, England on May 24th 1960, he had a keen fascination with the world around him.
As per one of his favorite comics, Dilbert - Paul had what is called “the knack” - an extreme knowledge about all things mechanical and electrical, while simultaneously having a shortfall of knowledge in popular culture and social norms. When Dilbert’s mother asked the doctor if he would be able to lead a normal life, the doctor responded, “no, he’ll be an engineer”. Well, that was Paul; there was no question at all that he was destined to become an engineer. From an early age, he loved nothing more than taking things apart and putting them back together.
At the age of 4, this love led to a serious electric shock while taking a heater apart. That same week, he found his way into the fuse box of a department store, where he managed to shut off all the lights. His most prized possessions included a suitcase full of valves, resistors, capacitors, and an old oscilloscope. He spent his childhood discovering and experimenting with the vast mechanical and electrical things around him. There seemed to be a constant smell of flux and solder coming from his bedroom, according to his sister Karen.
A contagious curiosity and intelligence led him to earn a degree in electrical engineering from Imperial College of London. Over the 40+ years of his career as a world-class engineer, he contributed to an incredibly vast array of applications; ranging from helicopters to fighter jets to more recently thermometers and refrigerators. In 1988, his work brought him to the United States, where he started his own semiconductor company, Acculin, which created a best in class “track and hold” mixed signal ASIC.
Although his amazing talents were truly a blessing, they could at times be a curse. On the positive side, he could fix anything. On the other hand, since he could fix anything, he had to fix everything himself. As a result, the projects around the house were endless and never quite finished. Once they were functional, the final aesthetics seemed to have a lower priority. In addition, any space could be a working space. His partner, Marianne, had to remind him that machine parts do not belong on the dinner table.
His achievements as an engineer were only eclipsed by his love and devotion to his family. In his college days he met Susan, whom he married. They shared adventures around the United Kingdom and the world, and after some time had two children, James and Anna. Things would never be quite the same. While the marriage came to an end, his devotion to his children was unwavering. He took seriously, practically, and with a sense of humor the job of raising a pair of decent human beings. He was habitually dependable and everso optimistic about the heights to which his children could reach, both literally and figuratively. At one point, he built them an exceptional tree house suspended 10 feet above the ground and, of course, was equipped with electricity.
Paul had a lifelong love of sailing, which started at the age of 13 when he and his sister took a course in Hong Kong. He sailed in the CCF (Navy Cadets) and loved it. On family vacations in the New Territories, he would take “Red Dragon,” a wooden dinghy, on day-long journeys and would love seeing how far he could get. Photos exist of him getting arrested on the Chinese border when he didn’t get back until after dark! At 14, he went on the “Winston Churchill,” a tall ship, and an experience he spoke very fondly of. Paul’s father, John, would also take him to the Norfolk Broads on boating holidays with the Naval Christian Fellowship. Later in life, Paul shared his love for sailing with his family, as often as possible. As an adult, he acquired his lifelong project and sailboat, the “Anna Marie,” a Southern Cross 31, which he named fondly after his daughter.
He beamed with pride when his children independently reached new heights; whether it was James taking a unique route to get into Babson, which resulted in a handwritten welcome note from the Dean, or Anna fixing her own car (at least enough to get it to her Dad, who would properly fix it). As a curious and incidental troublemaker himself, he could relate to some of the mischief the kids got up to, usually resulting in the prized reluctant sigh paired with a grin. The love was endless and unconditional, he was always a rock in the storm.
Along his journey, he met his soulmate, Marianne. Their story has been put into words by Debbie Posner, Marianne’s sister-in-law. More than 25 years ago, Marianne and Paul were introduced by a cat. No ordinary cat, mind you, but Marianne’s large friendly cat who made the rounds of their condo building in Natick chatting up the neighbors. Sylvester made Paul’s acquaintance, and soon Marianne did too.
As friends, they enjoyed hiking, and found a common love of nature at local parks and reserves. Life had brought each of them many challenges, but together they found support and friendship around mutual interests. Friendship grew into love, and a deep, complex, steadfast partnership. You could not tell where one of them ended and the other began.
When Marianne returned to Los Angeles, they talked every day, shared everything, and were always there for each other. When Paul bought the house in Millis, to be near his children, and Marianne returned to Massachusetts, she helped him repair it, making a home together. His family became hers and hers became his as well. They loved each other deeply and supported each other, always.
Through Paul’s numerous health challenges, from his first heart attack years ago to his memory loss to his battle with cancer, Marianne was at his side. She made sure they went sailing in Nova Scotia and enjoyed time with family and friends. Paul made her laugh and made tough times easier, a must, as Marianne traversed her own health problems. Theirs is a great love story — two souls with one heart.
He is survived by his loving partner, Marianne Hilliard, his sister Karen McCathie, his son James Hilton and wife Kirsi Hilton, his daughter Anna Hilton and fiance Andrew Hindson, and his grandson Oliver Hilton and nephew William McCathie. He is predeceased by his mother Patricia Hilton and father John Hilton.
All are welcome to celebrate his amazing life. Memorial Service at John Everett & Sons Funeral Home, 4 Park Street, NATICK COMMON on Friday, August 27th at 3PM with a celebration of life to follow at Morse Tavern.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be sent to the American Heart Association, 300 5th Ave Ste 6, Waltham, MA 02451, or visit www.heart.org
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