Our father, Leland (“Pete”) Hultgren, passed away peacefully in his home in Tucson, Arizona, on January 3, 2023, surrounded by his family. He was born to our beloved grandparents, Raymond Hultgren and Olivia Hultgren (Johnson), on November 4,1940 and grew up in Galva, Illinois. He was blessed with a large and loving circle of extended family and friends. Two of his favorite places were the basketball court and ball field. Dad graduated from Galva High School and was awarded the Richard E. Freece Memorial Scholarship for participation in school activities and achievement in scholastic honors. That scholarship contributed to his earning his B.A degree from Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois, in 1962.
After graduating from Bradley, Dad joined the U.S. Air Force and served our country with distinction. He earned his silver wings in the 3615 Pilot Training Wing at Craig Air Force Base in Selma, Alabama, and began his career as a fighter pilot. Dad’s 25-year military service was exemplary, noted for his leadership, bravery, and mastery of two fine and very different fighter aircraft, the F4 Phantom and A-10 Warthog. He flew over 170 wartime combat missions in hostile airspace. As an instructor pilot, he taught and checked out active-duty pilots of all ranks in both the F4 and A-10. Following his retirement from active duty, Dad continued as an A-10 instructor, training active-duty pilots in the classroom and in simulators. Several of those pilots worked with one of Dad’s daughters during their rotations at various commands and the Pentagon, and they noted his commitment to developing the best pilots. There was “no skating by” in Dad’s courses. Dad holds the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Force Commendation Medal, and several awards of the Air Medal. After fully retiring, he helped teach less advantaged children to read and, until his death, was a volunteer at Therapeutic Riding of Tucson (“TROT”). He greatly enjoyed his work at TROT whose mission is to enrich the lives of people with special needs, including veterans, using horses.
Dad loved dogs, sports, fly fishing, poetry, history, a good read, John Wayne movies, his daughter’s homemade frosted Christmas cookies, most anything with maple or brown sugar and cinnamon, and breakfast. He was proud of his Swedish heritage and a lifelong White Sox fan. His taste in music was eclectic (Puccini, Tchaikovsky, Artie Shaw, Dolly Parton), but his taste in food was not. He taught his children to fish and shoot, and a love for nature. Cherished memories include long road trips, fishing with Dad and his parents at Bone Lake, Wisconsin, and, after Dad learned to sail, sailing with him in Monterey Bay, California. He tolerated his daughters’ cats and never ceased correcting his children’s grammar. When we were young, he entertained us with his self-made geography trivia games during Sunday breakfasts after church. His children and grandchildren had no bigger fan, as Dad cheered them on in softball, soccer, volleyball, and crew. We all delighted in the pictures he shared of the owls, bobcats, quail, javelina, and other wildlife that were frequent visitors around his home.
He assumed the role of single dad when his oldest child was 12 and his youngest was 5. With the help of his amazing parents, Dad raised his children well. He was a kind, thoughtful man and a true gentleman. For all in his large circle of family and friends near and far, time spent with Dad was eagerly anticipated and always enjoyable. Conversations with Dad will be especially missed. Whether in person or over the phone, he was great fun to talk with about current events, politics, sports, family, and whatever other topics arose. He leaves an indelible, lasting impression on family and friends who loved him dearly. His ability to love, support, and be present will forever be lessons to all he knew. Through the toughest of times, he invariably offered the right words of wisdom and comfort. Dad’s understated warmth and humble ways have left a void that only he can fill.
He leaves behind by his four children, Kathleen (Vincent), Karrie, Mark (Peggi), and Jennifer; his granddaughter, Lauren; his five step-children, John (Kalee), Kristine, Kimberly, Robert (Michelle), and Gregory; and his step-grandchildren and great grandchildren, who affectionately called him Grandpa Pete, Mackenzie and Brynn, Mikayla and Rachel, Mark Jr. (Cynthia), Jeffery, Gregory Andrew, and Mark III and Cameron. He also leaves behind his partner of 20 years, Karen.
Adios, Dad! We love you!
To share a memory of Dad or send a condolence to his family, please visit https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/tucson-az/leland-hultgren-11094579.
Leland’s funeral service is scheduled for August 12 at 10:00 a.m., at the Messiah Lutheran Church (317 SW 3rd St, Galva, IL), followed by a graveside ceremony and military honors at Bishop Hill Cemetery (308 Christina St, Bishop Hill, IL). Immediately following the interment, family and friends are welcome to join us at the Messiah Lutheran Church for a celebration of life lunch in honor of Dad.
Charitable donations in honor of Dad and in lieu of flowers can be made the following organizations:
TROT (Therapeutic Riding of Tucson) – www.trotarizona.org. Arizona non-profit – enrich the lives of people with special needs using equine assisted activities and therapies to improve physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being.
IBE Scholarships (Institute for Better Education) – www.ibescholarships.org. Arizona non-profit provides financial resources to help families provide K-12 education for their children.