Passed Away 1965
Otto Hilton was born in 1912 and went on to play senior club football in Austria and Czechoslovakia, representing the Czech Army team in 1936-39. He immigrated to New Zealand from a war-threatened Europe in 1939 and, after a period of refereeing, joined Petone in 1950 – attracted by the club’s Chatham Cup winning performances of the previous year.
He and his brother, Arthur, using their experience gained in Europe, set up an oil and grease manufacturing plant and during the late 1950s and early 1960s several Petone players found employment there.
Otto took up an active administration role with the club early in the 1950s, and became Chairman in 1955. That same year, Tony Evans’ father Jack, came up with the idea of an end of season tournament for juniors to extend their playing season. But this was transformed by the club’s committee into what was launched at the end of that season as the Hilton-Petone Friendly Tournament. Otto championed the tournament concept with local body and Wellington club officials and he donated the Hilton-Petone Friendly Cup.
From 1957, he was elected onto the Council of the New Zealand Football Association. His commitment to the NZFA saw him retire from the chairmanship of the Club in 1959, and in 1960 he was elected to life membership in acknowledgement of his significant contribution.
Otto excelled in the field of publicity and was responsible for the NZFA publishing, for some three seasons, its own national magazine. He was also a firm advocate of a national league and he impressed with his ideas and enthusiasm about a range of things. Charlie Dempsey referred to him as “New Zealand’s first entrepreneur of soccer”. In 1964 he was the assistant manager of the New Zealand team (that included our Tony Evans and John Ryan) on its world tour.
On a personal note, in organising the first ever game of football allowed to be played by Hutt Valley High School in August 1963, I sought Otto’s assistance. He arranged for the heavy wooden posts to be taken down from Memorial Park and trucked, along with nets and stanchions, over to HVHS and to be taken back again next morning. He was a very generous man in all sorts of ways.
Sadly, Otto passed away prematurely in 1965.