Gary Hilliard

FFTA Chair, Newly Elected
Hall of Fame Member

“Continued commitment to education and training priorities, as well as continued technical advancement, are essential.” Those immortal words, were once spoken to FLEXO Magazine by Gary Hilliard, Hood Packaging Corp., past chairman of Foundation of Flexographic Technical Association’s Board of Trustees.

Hilliard, 60, worked fervently to ensure flexography became and remained packaging’s print process of choice, for nearly four decades. He passed away, Feb. 23, 2013, one day shy of his 61st birthday, following a hard-fought battle with cancer. In the days immediately prior to his death, in recognition of his career-long contributions to the FTA and the industry that it serves, Gary was informed by his wife Ellen that he had been elected to be the 51st inductee into FTA’s Flexo Hall of Fame by its esteemed membership.  The formal announcement, including a tribute to the man and his career is slated for Sunday, April 28, at the gala awards banquet, held in conjunction with the Annual Forum at the San Diego Marriott.

His passion for flexographic printing, aligned him with FTA and carried him through a career that took him from the University of Kentucky to Hygrade Foods Corp., Color Ad Packaging, Anagram International, Stone Container, and most recently, Hood Packaging. Hilliard held assignments that ranged from engineer to printing manager, graphics manager and technical manager.

Gary, who served as FFTA’s chairman from 2008-2010, was a two-term member of that body, as well as FTA’s board of directors, having been elected in 2005. He received FTA’s Distinguished Service Award in 2011 and FLEXO Magazine’s Author’s Excellence Award in 2006. 

Most recently, he chaired the Flexo Quality Consortium’s (FQC’s) Standards Working Group. Past service to FTA included stints as Wide Web Leadership Council chair, and chair of the Expanded Color Gamut Subcommittee for Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances (FIRST) 3rd Edition. Gary was also a driving force in the publication of the FIRST Design Guide—a designer-friendly guide to producing flexo-friendly files—released in conjunction with FIRST 4.0.

Midway through his career, Gary served as a judge in FTA’s Excellence in Flexography Awards Competition, having himself engineered multiple pieces of award-winning flexographic print. On multiple occasions, he spoke at FTA events, primarily the organization’s Annual Forum, where he has chaired and co-chaired technical sessions.

“Our industry extends its deepest sympathies to one of our leaders,” stated Dave Horsman, member of FTA’s Hall of Fame in learning of Gary’s passing. “Gary was such a force in our industry and he will be missed,” stated fellow Hall of Fame member Howie Vreeland. Ed Dedman, Graymills, a colleague from the local area, offered, “From all of Gary's friends at the Twin Cities Flexo Association, our deepest sympathies to Ellen and the entire family. Gary was a wonderful friend to the flexo industry, as well as simply a man of integrity and honor. He will be missed - our world doesn't have nearly enough people like Gary.” FTA president Mark Cisternino added, “Gary told me many times how much the FTA meant to him over the years and it was evident based on the number of initiatives on which he volunteered to serve. As Chairman of the FFTA during a critical turnaround period for the organization, Gary was instrumental in leading us out of an especially stressful financial period as the board and management team worked to overcome the economic conditions and re-engineer our business model, emerging as a stronger & more relevant entity serving the FTA membership. His leadership and guidance were invaluable to the board, organization and me personally. I’m going to miss our conversations…and his smiling face.”

Born in Pennsylvania on Feb. 24, 1952, Gary is survived by his wife of 27 years, Ellen Curtin Hilliard; his mother; Carmela, and sisters, Denise and Sally. He was preceded in death by his father, Glenn Edward Hilliard Jr. Donations in Gary’s memory can be made to the American Cancer Society.

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. at St. Edwards Catholic Church, 9401 Nesbitt Ave. S., Bloomington, MN 55437.