The municipalities of Greenbrier County, communities across West Virginia, and possibly even the governor of the state, owe a debt of gratitude to Doug Hylton.
As a grant consultant for over 25 years, he was an expert, known for compiling thousands of grant proposals that generated millions of dollars, of which he was pretty proud to make available “to help our communities to meet their needs.” We will miss him for his expertise, but we will remember him for his friendship, vitality and generosity.
On Friday, Mar. 1, Doug succumbed to a sudden illness. He was 63 years old. At his funeral on Tuesday, Ronceverte council woman Kathy King said in her remarks of thanks that Doug had just finished the last part of a grant he was working on and got it submitted the day before he died. He did his best to make every day count by serving others, she said. (Hylton’s obituary can be found on page 7 of the Mountain Messenger.)
Pastor Stephen Baldwin, who officiated at the funeral at the Rhema Center in Fairlea, said, as a reflection of the expressed feelings of the many attending mourners, “Gone too soon, seemingly with so much to give – Doug was so full of life. It’s a shock [for us] to be here today.”
Doug labored for Ronceverte, his beloved home town, the various communities of the county and numerous other places across the state. “He meant so much to everybody,” said Marsha Humphrey of Ripley, who along with about 20 members of Main Street West Virginia, came from around the state to honor this boundlessly dedicated man.
Grant projects he helped to make happen included community developments involving street scape projects, recreational and walking trails, cemetery conservation, historic surveys, federal grants for clinics and health centers, arts programs, building renovations and drinking fountains. Libraries, local parks, flood recovery, the Meadow River Trail, the L&R Trail, community gardens, Christmas lights, emergency back-up generators, and equipment for police departments – all benefited from his talent for writing grants. The list, as King stated, would “cover the entire stage [at Rhema] and stand five feet high.”
“There’s so much to do,” he’d say, and yet, he’d still have time to escort the elderly ladies of Ronceverte to their doctor appointments. Kindness with humor was his forte.
A special project close to Doug’s heart was the Ronceverte Museum, which he created five or six years ago. The building that houses it is under the old walking bridge next to the post office, and is “where relics are collected and memories are preserved.” He welcomed every item, no matter how mundane, that found its way to the museum, building the record of Ronceverte’s history bit by bit.
“How can we honor his memory,” Ronceverte Mayor David Smith asked, except to pick up and carry on with his work by volunteering in your own communities. Smith quoted from James 2:14-17, “Without works, faith is dead.”
“Doug lived that,” he said. “What you do shows where your heart lies.”
How about a shout out to Doug – “Thank you, Doug!” – and now, go visit the museum.