Profile of a Lion

November 17, 1999
Orven Hillestad
Santa Paula News
Orven Hillestad was born in North Dakota on August 24, 1920. He attended grade and high school in Park River, North Dakota, and started college in 1939 at North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo. In 1942 he moved to Seattle and attended the University of Washington. Orven volunteered for the Army Air Corps and reported for active duty in March 1943. After preflight, gunnery school and navigation training, he was graduated as a Second Lieutenant navigator on April 8, 1944.He was assigned to a B-17 crew and received combat training in Oklahoma. The crew had the honor of flying their B-17 over the Atlantic to England, where the aircraft was assigned to the same base as the crew. He began flying combat missions in August 1944.“At about the half way point of our missions, we got a new bombardier and began flying as a lead crew,” Orven relates. They “had plenty of close calls, but the only man ever wounded on our aircraft was an assistant navigator.” For his service flying in 30 combat missions, Orven was awarded the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross.He returned to the United States in February 1945, received his discharge in November, and returned to the University of Washington. In June of 1949 he received his BS degree and secondary teaching certificate.Teaching jobs were scarce that year, and in August of the next year he was recalled to help fill the shortage of navigators in the Air Force. He spent about three years in Tokyo assigned to a military air transport squadron.In 1953 Orven received an assignment to Mather Air Force Base, where he became an instructor in the Instructor Training Section. While in the Sacramento area he married a girl named Virginia.Though still considering a return to high school teaching, “I realized that the Air Force offered me a better career than civilian teaching.” So, during a tour in Vietnam, he was offered and accepted a regular commission in the Air Force.After a short tour at Schilling Air Force Base in Kansas, he wound up as the squadron navigator of an air refueling outfit at Travis Air Force Base. Duties here included scheduling activities. While at Travis, his son Bill was born in January 1962. Just before leaving Travis, Orven was promoted to major and was given the honor of attending the Air Command and Staff College in Montgomery, Alabama.During a vacation before reporting to his next assignment at Strategic Air Command Headquarters, Orven and his family visited the Santa Paula area and decided that “this would be our preferred place for retirement.”
At Offut Air Force Base, Orven had the unique duty of flying as an intelligence officer aboard the Air Force Airborne Command Post known as “Looking Glass.” He met a lot of Air Force generals on that EC-135 aircraft.When he received word that he might be assigned to Washington, D.C., he and his wife had a long talk, and “she decided that she and the children would be better off moving to Santa Paula, while I reported for duty with the Defense Intelligence Agency. After noting the pressures on that job, I became convinced that we had made the right decision.”When Orven was promoted to lieutenant colonel, he was given command of the Plans and Analysis Branch of the Targets Office in the Defense Intelligence Agency. “I must have done a satisfactory job for I was awarded the Legion of Merit just after my retirement in February 1969.”Back in civilian life, Orven went to work as a data analyst at Point Mugu for the Computer Sciences Corporation. In August 1987, his friend and neighbor, Gus Coleman, invited him to attend a Lions Club meeting.Orven states, “I liked the Lions and now that I had the time and a stable residence, I decided that my service to my country was over, but I could still serve the community where I lived.”Shortly after Orven joined the Lions, the treasurer moved to Yuma, Arizona. Lion President Wayne Johnson asked for a volunteer to fill the treasurer’s job. Orven volunteered, and has held the job ever since. “I did serve as secretary for a while, but when Lion Don Snyder returned, I gladly gave up that job.”Since he has a computer, Orven assumed the publishing of Lions meeting bulletins. He is also in charge of the collection of used eyeglasses and hearing aids. Last month he mailed out 312 pairs of glasses.

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