Community Foundation of St. Joseph County

Be a fan on Facebook

Charles Hillman

Taking Our Community to New Heights Through Philanthropy

Charles Hillman

Like Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the American Airlines captain who successfully landed his disabled jet in the Hudson River in 2009, Charles Hillman could fly before he could drive.

For three or four months before he got his driver’s license, Charles used to buzz his South Bend home in his Piper trainer to let his mother know that he would soon need a ride home from the airport.  

He continued to fly all his life, and was proud to be a member of the “UFO Club”: the United Flying Octogenarians. 

“For some people, I guess it’s just in their blood, “says Anne Hillman, Charles’s wife of 58 years. “There was a kind of secret brotherhood... If I saw Charles off in a corner with a group of guys at a party, I knew they were all pilots.”

At 10,000 feet in the air or at ground level, Charles lived a full life to the very end. His last few days were particularly good ones.

On Monday, he played cards at the home of his dear friend Dr. Les Bodnar, who’d been ill for several weeks but had recently recovered enough to resume their regular bridge match. 

On the Morris Park Country Club golf course on Tuesday, Charles shot his best game of golf of the whole season, and his partner played his best round in four years—which meant they “won all the money,” Anne says, with a smile.

On Wednesday, the Burkhart family honored him for his service on the board of Burkhart Advertising. Charles was the only external director on the board, and it meant the world to him to see his portrait hanging on the office wall beside those of the members of the Burkhart family.  

That evening, he and Anne had a joyful celebration of their mutual July birthdays, going out to dinner with friends.

Then, on July 15, 2012, he suffered a heart attack while golfing at Morris Park, and died shortly after that. 

“Charles had an amazing zest for life,” says Rose Meissner, president of the Community Foundation. “You could see it sparkle in his eyes. He and Anne have been champions of the Community Foundation since our very earliest days. The two of them have a can-do attitude that makes you think everything is possible, and they’re always willing to back it up with their time, energy, and generosity.”

In his will, Charles Hillman made a substantial bequest to the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, making the Foundation the beneficiary of his IRA and an annuity contract.

That philanthropic decision was in their plan from the start as they worked with their financial advisor, Anne says. 

Giving through an IRA maximizes philanthropy’s power. When these retirement savings vehicles are bequeathed directly to children or grandchildren, federal estate taxes, state inheritance taxes, and federal and state income taxes can reduce the value of the gift by as much as 70%. For example, a child could receive as little as $300,000 from a million-dollar IRA after taxes.

But when IRAs are bequeathed directly to a qualified charity, the funds bypass the otherwise applicable taxes. As part of an overall estate plan, a good strategy is to specify that assets qualifying for a “step up” in basis at death be transferred to children, while retirement funds fuel any intended charitable bequests.

Charles believed that philanthropy through the Community Foundation was “clearly one of the most efficient ways to give,” Anne says. Charles also valued the Foundation’s deep roots in our local community.

Together with the Hillmans’ four children, Anne will decide which charities will benefit each year from the Hillman Family Fund, a donor-advised fund with the Foundation.

Because of Charles Hillman’s generosity, the Community Foundation now has even more lift under its wings.