Walter Hilbert, a longtime Suffolk County official credited with helping spearhead efforts to reduce nitrogen discharges and protect the area’s water resources, died Monday of cancer. The Nesconset resident was 51.
Loved ones and colleagues said Hilbert was a good-natured, problem-solver who cared about community and family. He was known for his wry sense of humor, his love of golf and his culinary skills — particularly during the holidays.
“He was a great dad,” son Brian Hilbert, of South Bend, Indiana, said. “For me, I wanted to be like him my entire life. “He was a really carefree guy. He could really solve any problem. He was very good at giving advice.”
Born in Nesconset, Hilbert graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Clarkson University in 1987. He married Diane in 1988 and began working that same year for the county, taking over the office of wastewater management in 2001. His final position was chief of waste water management.
“Walter was a man who deeply affected the world he touched, and left it far better than he found it,” said Walter Dawydiak, director of the county’s Division of Environmental Quality. “He was a great friend to many of us, and in spirit will always continue to be a role model.”
During his tenure, Hilbert also served as the county representative to the Suffolk County Sewer Agency and on task forces focusing on smart growth, workforce housing and sewage management.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Hilbert oversaw the study of small package sewage treatment plants and innovative septic systems as part of an initiative to reduce nitrogen discharges into surface waters.
“He was good at everything,” said Brian Hilbert, who is working on a Ph.D in mechanical engineering at University of Notre Dame. “He was an engineer, but he wasn’t your typical engineer because he could actually talk to people.”
Hilbert was the youngest of four, with three older sisters. He was dedicated to family living in the family home when his parents moved to North Carolina, family members said. “I think he thought of family above all,” said sister Judy Forker, of Edina, Minnesota.
She said her brother was welcoming and gave advice free of judgment.
“Walter was somebody who touched people,” she said. “He was a wonderful mentor, boss and son.”
Besides his wife, son and sister, Hilbert is survived by his mother Janice Hilbert of Wilmington, North Carolina; another son, Jonathan of Smithtown; two other sisters, Joann Hilbert of East Islip and Janet Hilbert of Branford, Connecticut; and several nieces and nephews.
Visitation is today from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Moloney’s Lake Funeral Home & Cremation Center, at 132 Ronkonkoma Ave. in Lake Ronkonkoma. A religious service will begin at 6:45 p.m. A Mass of Christian burial will take place at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Joseph R.C. Church, at 45 Church St. in Ronkonkoma.