Hilton was born July 18, 1925, in the Red Kill Valley (also known as Bedell), to Edith Kittle Kelly and Carson Kelly.
He attended Fleischmanns High School, and served in the Army from May 1945 to December 1946. When he returned home he continued working on his family’s dairy farm, and married Stella Mech in 1948.
In addition to farming, Hilt lived off the land in many other ways. He hauled milk for local farmers, first to the Halcott Center Creamery, and later to Roxbury. He also had a trucking business, delivering everything from GLF (present day Agway) products, sand, gravel, and sawdust, to the trunks of student campers, which arrived by train in Fleischmanns and were delivered to Camp Ta-Ri-Go.
He was in building construction, having built the home that he and his wife, Stella occupied for nearly 60 years. That home included cherry lumber harvested from his farm in the head of the valley. He also built several other homes in the valley and even his own first boat.
In the winters he plowed snow for many neighbors in the valley and beyond, and in the spring made maple syrup from the sap bush on his family farm.
Hilt was a fire commissioner for many decades and a member of the Bedell and Conesville cemetery associations.
He enjoyed hunting and fishing, camping and boating with his family and friends, league bowling and a pinochle card club with his wife Stella’s good friends. He was always willing to do a favor or lend a hand to his neighbors or anyone who needed it.
Hilt was best known as an old time fiddler from the Catskill Mountains. He began playing the fiddle at the age of five, then playing square dances at school, and eventually, at age 15 he started playing with The Mel- ody Boys, a local band. After marrying Stella, she became proficient at playing the chords on the piano and joined him in playing and calling at square dances.
In the late 1970s he started a band called Hilt Kelly and The Sidekicks, with Donald Straus- ser and Donald Erwin joining him and Stella. He played for nearly eight decades on a second hand fiddle that his grandfather Ward Kelly purchased in the 1880s.
In 1994, the Roxbury Arts Group dedicated their Performance Center as “Hilt Kelly Hall,” and in 1997 he was inducted into the New York State Old Tyme Fiddlers Association Hall of Fame. He was honored in 2013, for his decades of playing and calling square dances at the Westkill Community Hall.
His band played for decades at The Gas Up in Gallupville, and played many other venues in and beyond the Catskills. He also spent a great deal of time teaching traditional music to youngsters both in Roxbury Central School and the Manhattan Country School Farm, as well as other aspiring fiddlers in the Catskill Mountain tradition.
Hilton is survived by Stella, his wife of 66 years; daughter, Linda (James) Armour; son, Lynn (Donna) Kelly; “adopted” son, Louis Cataffo; granddaugh- ters, Kelly Armour (Patrice Huart), Veronica Armour (Noah Paul), and Heather (Chad) Livermore; grandson, Nicholas (Laura) Kelly; and three greatgrandchildren, Eric Kelly, Alana Kelly and Bryan Charles Livermore.
He was predeceased by his brother, Howard Kelly; sister, Helen Finch and grandson, Bryan James Kelly.
Calling hours were held from 5 until 9 p.m. Saturday, March 7, 2015, at the Hynes Funeral Home, Margaretville.
A funeral service was held at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 8, 2015, at the Jay Gould Memorial Reformed Church, Roxbury.
Committal services will be in the spring in Bedell Cemetery, Fleischmanns.
Donations in his name may be made to the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association or Catskill Area Hospice.
Funeral arrangements are entrusted to the Hynes Funeral Home, Margaretville.