May 29, 1928 ~ May 19, 2019

Born in: Biltmore, NC
Resided in: Augusta, GA

James Alfred Hilford passed away on May 19th of 2019 in the Hospice Unit of the Charles George Veterans Administration Hospital of Asheville, N.C.

He was born in Biltmore, North Carolina, son of Marion Randolph Hilford and Grace Margaret Johnston, The youngest of four children, he lived in Naples, Henderson County, N.C. where he attended Fletcher Academy and Hendersonville High School. He served in the Army Air Corps in 1946-47 and the Air Force from 1948 until retirement in 1967.

Jim was married to Lucia Velez in 1952. They had two daughters who survive him; Cynthia and her husband, Jan Spaeth of Mills River, N.C. and Lucy Greiner of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, He is survived by five grandchildren and two great grandchildren; Diane and her husband Matthew Latcham with their two children, Grant and Savannah; Peter and Lisa Spaeth and Nicholas Greiner and Alexis Greiner. He is also survived by his long time companion, Doris Kennan of Augusta, GA. He is predeceased by his second wife Cyrena Woods Persons, brother Johnston Randolph Hilford, two sisters, Grace Muriel Polansky and Mary Hope Arnett and another sister, Margaret Adelaide who died in infancy on the Mission Field in Sierra Leone, Africa where his mother contracted tuberculosis. He had seven nieces and nephews.

His overseas military service included “Occupation Duty” in Japan; the first year and a half of combat in Korea: NATO duty in Adana, Turkey; and as a Military Assistance Advisor in Guayaquil, Ecuador. His duties in the Air Force included: Aircraft Maintenance Technician, Master Instructor, and various supervisory positions. His proudest contribution during his service was his training of CIA pilots to fly the C 123 aircraft with R2800 engines over Laos in 1964. This was only recently declassified! He was the only person selected for this, because he also had a Civilian Instructor’s License as well as the Air Force Instructor Certification. He also trained NATO allied forces for 4 months in Europe to incorporate the use of the F-4 Phantom jets in 1964, and later was training the Navy pilots to adapt the F-4 for use on their carriers in San Diego for 6 months.

After his military service, he served as the Peace Corps Training Center Facilities Director, in Arecibo, Puerto Rico; Plant Engineer for {Shelmar de Colombia} a subsidiary of Continental Can Co. in Medellin, Colombia; and under contract with the American Embassy, in Paris, France.

He retired to Florida in 1983 and moved back to his native, beloved mountains of North Carolina in 2004. After a short stay at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, MS. In 2012, he moved to Augusta, GA. to enjoy his remaining time with Doris Kennan.

Jim, as he was known, first attended Naples Interdenominational Church which later became Naples First Baptist Church. He attended many other churches over the years while traveling to over 60 countries. His favorite hymn was “Our Best”. He was a life member of Disabled American Veterans. He volunteered in local libraries. His hobbies included genealogy research and World Coin Collecting.

A Funeral Service will be held at 2:00 PM on Sunday, May 26 in the Chapel of Groce Funeral Home at Lake Julian and interment with Military Honors will follow at Calvary Episcopal Churchyard. His family will receive friends at the funeral home on Saturday, May 25 from 5:00 until 7:00 PM.

Flowers are appreciated, but for those who choose, memorial donations may be made to either the American Cancer Society ( or to the Charles George VA Medical Center Hospice Unit, 1100 Tunnel Road, Asheville NC 28805.


Funeral Service: May 26, 2019 2:00 pm

Groce Funeral Home at Lake Julian
72 Long Shoals Road
Arden, NC 28704


Room: Chapel

Visitation: May 25, 2019 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Groce Funeral Home at Lake Julian
72 Long Shoals Road
Arden, NC 28704


Room: Chapel


Calvary Episcopal Churchyard
Hendersonville Road
Fletcher, NC 28732


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  1. We will miss you dearly, Daddy! But we know you are resting in peace up in heaven with your Mom and Dad and Barry too. I love you so much!

  2. Dear uncle Jim,
    We will miss you always! I have fond memories of us together playing in Medellin in Villa Lucia and growing up near you. May God hold you in his arms.

  3. Dear Sweetheart, Our six plus years were wonderful and we knew our time was coming soon. I miss you so very very much and I LOVE YOU with all my heart,some day I will join you and we will be together again. All my love Sweetie, your sweetheart, doris

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