Richard Hilton, 78: 40-year East Marietta Little League coach

Richard Hilton coached his players until the day he died.

While greeting former players who came to see him at Golden LivingCenter Kennestone, the long-time East Marietta Little League baseball coach continued to dispense instructions.

“He’d tell this one about how to take care of his wife, and another one about taking care of his kids,” said Betty Hilton, his wife of almost 42 years. “And that’s what he did with them when they were playing ball. He talked about how to treat one another … so why would he stop now?”

George Richard Seaborn Hilton, called Richard by all, died Dec. 22 after a brief illness and complications of congestive heart failure. He was 78. A funeral was held Saturday at Cobb Vineyard Church, Kennesaw, followed by burial at Noonday Baptist Church Cemetery, Marietta. Mayes Ward-Dobbins Funeral Home, Marietta, was in charge of arrangements.

A coach for more than 40 years, Hilton was not only loved by his players, but admired by other coaches.

“I coached against him and I learned from him,” said Charles “Chuck” Mason, of Bowdon. “I knew how to work with the kid, but he taught me how to work with the adults who came with the kids. I learned a lot from him about that.”

Players learned more than the rules of the game under Hilton, Mason said.

“He taught us a lot about life, and that’s hard to do with kids who are 10, 11, and 12,” said Scott Firestine, of Kennesaw, who played for Hilton from 1977 until 1979. “He taught kids how to be adults, and those are the lessons we will never forget.”

Hilton, an Army veteran who once aspired to be a baseball player, began coaching when his son Mark started playing youth baseball in the ‘60s. After a couple years of watching others coach he decided he could probably do a better job, his wife said. “That’s how he got into coaching, and he loved it.”

Family and little league were a major part of the first conversation between the Hiltons when they met during Thanksgiving of 1970. They talked for hours and knew something special was going to happen between them.

“He invited me back up about two weeks later for his company Christmas party, and we got married New Year’s Eve,” she said. “We were at the age where time was flying by so we got married and got on with a beautiful life.”

It was a second marriage for both of them, and they combined their families - his son with her son and two daughters - and had a son together.

Betty Hilton said her husband was so in love with coaching little league, a volunteer position, he made sure his day job didn’t get in the way. He held a variety of occupations, from running a car wash to working in insurance.

“He never took a promotion or did anything that would have him work longer hours, that would keep him away from little league,” she said. “I always said his first love was little league, and I was his second, and I was OK with that.”

In addition to his wife, Hilton is survived by a daughter, Kelly Kennedy of Marietta; sons, John Kennedy of Tampa, Fla., Mark Hilton of Loganville, Kevin Kennedy of Orlando, Fla., and Sam Hilton of Hiram; sister, Bonnie O’Neal of Fitzgerald; two brothers, Steve Hilton of Acworth and Eddie Hilton of metro Atlanta; 12 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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