Remembering a neighborhood jewel in Roland Park | COMMENTARY
By Lauren Weiner
For The Baltimore Sun|
Apr 27, 2020 at 6:33 AM
Spring’s renewal has been strange under the virus lockdown. Interrupting the stillness of the city’s azalea-blooming neighborhoods are the dog walkers, the joggers, the people who make the rounds delivering packages and mail. Anyone — visiting workman or resident — toiling outside gardening, or landscaping, or hammering away on the roof of a garage is a reassuring presence in the eerie quiet.
A presence who is missed, in my neck of the woods, is a man named Anthony Hilton. He tended to the yards and trees of our corner of Roland Park for decades. On March 29, the Baltimore native died at the age of 59.
Mr. Hilton was a familiar sight for many of us, working at all hours nearly year-round to move mulch, do battle with invasive plants and vines, or amass 5-foot-high piles of leaves in the yards of his many clients. The neighbors who knew him personally exchanged reminiscences on social media when the word spread that he had passed away.
One of them said, “I will never look at a honeysuckle without recollecting his disdain for ... the species that invaded this area (according to him).” As well as being diligent and honest, he was pretty opinionated. He would never knock off for the day “without cleaning and bagging every scrap up,” said another. “When he had to borrow money,” said a neighbor for whom he worked for 20 years, “he was scrupulous about working it off.”
Another cherishes the memory of him riding on his moped, with helmet and cool sunglasses, down Falls Road.
Many years ago, Mr. Hilton lived for a while on Elmwood Road near Falls Road Terrace, on the third floor of an enchanted-looking Dutch colonial. The owner was a client of Mr. Hilton’s, and Mr. Hilton did work on the interior of the house as well as maintaining the garden. On Edgevale Road, in another client’s garage, his moped was (and still is) parked.
We hired him only recently, having seen him around for years. Before that, he was someone with whom to exchange a greeting as I passed while walking the dogs. Once, as I came up the path behind our house, I said hello and he asked me if I owned a better rake than the one he was using. Mine didn’t seem much better to me, but he borrowed it. Finding it leaning against the fence at sundown, I picked it up and saw that he had repaired its loose workings.
He was in fact known for pooling the neighbors’ tools, even displacing a leaf blower or two among the homes of his clients, in what one neighbor referred to as Mr. Hilton’s “community of resources.”
What did he do in his spare time? His daughter, Tymeeka Hilton, said his apartment in the Park Heights neighborhood was filled with a profusion of houseplants that he enjoyed nurturing. He came from a family of nine siblings, she said, and was a good singer. He left four grandchildren and was about to become a great-grandfather.
Mr. Hilton had many underlying health issues, and he’d been hospitalized several times in early March, his daughter said. It is not yet known whether the coronavirus took his life. His family gathered for his funeral service via a Zoom teleconference.
“His honorable exertions had won him due esteem,” as the novelist George Eliot once wrote. The man’s dedication to his task, his love of what is familiar, and his pride in what is beautiful make Anthony Hilton someone we won’t soon forget.