Tommie (Tom) Adam Hilzendeger was born on December 23, 1949 in Long Beach, California to Adam and Frances Hilzendeger. Tom grew up in Torrance along with his sister Dianne Swink and brother Bill Hughes. A friend to many, a father, a grandfather Tom went to be with the Lord on June 7, 2020.
He is survived by his loving wife of 39 years Megan Hilzendeger, his children Nicole McBride (husband Thad), Jenny Leite (husband Tony), Adam Hilzendeger (wife Chauncey). Tom and Megan share 6 grandchildren: Ezra, Devin, Addison, Charlotte, Bryce, and Charlize and two great grandchildren Kadence and Waylon.
Tom served in the US Army from 1968 to 1970. He spent 13 months in Vietnam as a Water Treatment Plant Operator. During his service he earned the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal. After returning home Tom continued his work with water purification at Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts until his retirement at age 58.
It was after retirement that Tom participated in a PTSD group at his local Vet Center, a community based branch of Veterans Affairs. Here is where he was introduced to the idea of altruism. Altruism is defined as the selfless concern for the well-being of others. Recognizing a need Tom wanted to apply this concept to help Veterans in the community and thus Vets 4 Veterans was born. Just over 10 years ago Tom, along with friends and family, started with a car show to raise funds to donate to veterans who needed more help. Vets 4 Veterans, a non-profit comprised of volunteers, has grown to include many services available to Veterans in need at no cost to them. From art therapy, clothing drives, food distribution, scholarships to local colleges, and hardship relief to Operation Restart, a transitional housing program, Vets 4 Veterans grew to be Tom's passion. Tom was adamant about all donations and fundraising going directly to Veterans. His passion was evident just a few days before his passing as he participated at a food distribution for veterans and their families.
"My hopes are that we can help vets. If we can stop one vet from getting a divorce and save a family, if we can stop one vet from living on the streets, if we can save one vet from suicide, then all the hard work has been worth it" ~ Tom Hilzendeger. Tom had many more dreams for Vets 4 Veterans and his family and friends will continue his legacy. A scholarship has been endowed in his name at Antelope Valley College, which will be awarded in perpetuity.
All who knew and loved Tom are invited to a Celebration of Life on Sunday, June 28th, 2020 at 4pm. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, you consider making a donation to Vets 4 Veterans through www.avvets4veterans.org/donate in order to help us continue Tom's passion and legacy.
Parking may be limited so please consider carpooling or obtaining a car service.