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American Trails and trail supporters around the country mourn the loss of Hulet Hornbeck on January 7, 2012.


“If thoughts could make a pathway and memories a lane, I’d walk right up to Heaven and bring you home again.” -- Katya Hornbeck, Hulet’s Granddaughter


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arrowSee more remembrances and add your own on the American Trails blog...

arrow Read Hulet's Memorial Page on the American Trails website


Recent news about Hulet Hornbeck:
• January 7, 2012 ~ American Trails BLOG
• January 10, 2012 ~ Martinez Gazette: East Bay Trail Blazer, Hulet Hornbeck, Dies at 92
• January 10, 2012 ~ Martinez Gazette: Love, Life, and the Great Outdoors
• January 11, 2012 ~ East Bay Regional Park District Mourns Conservationist and Trail Advocate, Hulet Hornbeck
Video of Hulet Hornbeck Interview - 2006


Hulet Clark Hornbeck ~ Oct.14, 1919 – Jan. 7, 2012

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Provided by his family


Hulet Clark Hornbeck passed away peacefully with his daughter at his side in Pacific Grove at the Del Monte Rest Home where he had resided since July of 2011. Hulet’s wife of 50 years, Mary Lynn, predeceased him in 1995. He is survived by his children Jane Hornbeck Consani (Roger) of Carmel Valley and Lawrence Hornbeck (Irene Larson) of Martinez. He is also survived by his sister Margaret Hornbeck Steele (Allen) of Walnut Creek.

Hulet was grandfather to Jennifer Franet (deceased), Jessica Consani, Julia Franet-Hornbeck, Rachael Franet-Hornbeck, Sveta Hornbeck, Katya Hornbeck, Pasha Hornbeck, great grandfather to Zachary, Sage, Dmitry, and Stas. He was a loving uncle and great uncle to many nieces and nephews in a large extended family.

Hulet grew up primarily in New Jersey. There he learned to love the great outdoors. His mother, Helen, would take him and his sister out of Newark on the train. They would get off and go “tramping” in the Ramapo Mountains. Later they joined the Green Mountain Club set on Lake Tiorati where they could hike, swim, and canoe. These experiences set the stage for Hulet’s life years later.

He attended Newark Academy and after graduating he hitch hiked to the University of Maine and asked to be admitted. He majored in forestry for two years before joining the Army Air Corp. He often said, “I knew there was a war coming. I wanted to try to control my fate.” He was made a navigator because “I was good at math, knew the stars and could read charts and maps.” He flew to Hawaii from Hamilton Field, California two weeks after Pearl Harbor was bombed and shortly thereafter flew on to Australia.

Hulet was a member of the 435th Squadron, 19th Bomber Group. He navigated his B-17 Flying Fortress on bombing and reconnaissance missions, including the reconnaissance of Iwo Jima prior to the invasion. Hulet’s B-17 also spotted a Japanese fleet and broke radio silence— this led to the Battle of the Pearl Sea, a major U.S. victory. He came back a highly decorated hero and rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel.

photo of man in uniform

Hulet Hornbeck in Army Air Corp uniform

He did not speak of his war experiences for many years. Of his numerous medals, he said, “Oh, those are things they gave me for being in the war.” One of those “things” was the Distinguished Flying Cross. Decades after the war Hulet returned to Australia, New Guinea and many islands he had flown over. He was walking on them and trying to make peace within himself. Of Rabaul, New Guinea, a port city, where he bombed Japanese ships, he said, “I couldn’t stay there because the last time I was there people were trying to kill me.”

After two years in the Pacific War Theater, Hulet was assigned to teach navigation in Idaho. There he met and married Mary Lynn Talbot. Their daughter, Jane, was born in Boise. At the end of the war he was discharged but remained a member of the Air Force Reserve. He and Mary Lynn moved back to New Jersey where Hulet went back to college and earned a law degree from Rutgers University. Six years after their second child, Lawrence, was born Hulet and Mary Lynn moved the family to California. The decision to move followed an epiphany that Hulet had while taking a walk around a lake with his daughter.

The family settled into Martinez. Hulet joined the Sierra Club, while Mary Lynn pursued a teaching credential, graduating from the University of California at Berkeley. He was very proud of her accomplishment at becoming a credentialed teacher. Hulet became enamored with the small but growing “conservation movement.” Hulet and Mary Lynn took their children to the Sierra Club Lodge near Donner Pass. Hulet’s passion for the wilderness took him deeper and deeper into local politics of land use. He became a part of the Park Council that led to the unification of Contra Costa and Alameda into the East Bay Regional Park District. In 1965 Hulet Hornbeck was hired as the Head of Land and Water Acquisition— he had a background in law and forestry— and he loved opened space. He said, “People need out-door experiences; not everyone can get to Yosemite. We need parks for people in urban areas. Children need to be out in nature.”

During his years at the park district he was tenacious at preserving open space in an ever-increasing urban environment. He created many parks and mile upon mile of trails. To Hulet it was another battle. Every park had to be fought for. World War Two had steeled him for any battle. He looked ahead, he prepared, and he never stopped. He rose from a poor kid from the depression era to become a hero for many. He got his bombs on target and the land he targeted for open space he got. He was honest, ethical, caring, and he won his battles. It is estimated that Hulet turned more than 50,000 acres into parks and the park district is still growing, now 110,000 acres, thanks to master plans he helped set forth years ago.

Hulet remained active with the park district 25 years after retiring. He was also active with the American Trails, National Trails Council, California Recreational Trails Committee (appt. by Gov. ’87-’96), California Trails & Greenway Foundation, East Bay Area Trail Council, Contra Costa Parks Committee, California Conservation Council, Regional Parks Association, Sierra Club, American Hiking Society, Heritage Trails Fund, Amigos de Anza, Martinez Land Trust, Save Mt. Diablo, and more.

Our father said that “the clouds were my best friend because I could hide my plane in them.” Now, he has soared through them. And he’s probably discussing the American wilderness with John Muir, while walking with his wife and his mother.


A Memorial in Honor of Hulet’s Life ~ A Life Well Lived ~ was held February 26, 2012 at the East Bay Regional Park District’s Tilden Park, Berkeley, California

In lieu of flowers, Hulet’s family has suggested making a donation to one or more of the following organizations in his memory:


arrow Read Hulet's Memorial Page on the American Trails website

arrow See more remembrances and add your own on the American Trails blog...

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