Obituary: Jim Hillman

Great-grandfather, celebrated healthcare industry executive, traveler, Dodgers fan

James (Jim) Otto Hillman, loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, died June 27 at the age of 88. He resided in Claremont with his wife Judy.

Jim was born in Modena, Wisconsin on April 5, 1935, to Hattie and Spencer Hillman. At age 5, he, his parents and sisters moved to Naples, California. During his youth he worked several jobs, including delivering newspapers, filling up gravity gas pumps, setting pins in a bowling alley, bagging groceries, and as a service station attendant. In 1953 he enlisted in the US Army to serve his country during the Korean conflict and ascended to a rank of specialist 4. Much of his enlisted time was served in Europe, primarily in Austria and Germany. He subsequently received an honorable discharge.

After returning from the service, he began his secondary education at Long Beach City College, earning his associate degree. During this time he met his future wife, Judy. He was accepted at California State University, Long Beach, where among other things, he received the “scholarship and achievement award” from the accounting society. In 1962, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Cal State Long Beach, with a major in business.

Upon graduation, he began his professional career with the Long Beach accounting firm Windes & McClaughery, where he earned his certified public accounting license. In 1965, he became the medical clinic manager for Leisure World in Seal Beach. In 1968 he earned a teaching credential, permitting him to teach accounting in the California Community Colleges system. At about the same time, he and an associate founded the CPA firm of Murchison and Hillman.

He was named the clinic administrator of the Harriman Jones Medical Clinic in Long Beach in 1972, thus beginning a distinguished career in medical administration. He served in that role for 16 years. In 1988 he  accepted a position as the chief executive officer with Unified Medical Group Association, a coalition of medical groups dedicated to improving medical care and efficiency. He became the CEO of the California Association of Physicians Group in 1996. During his career he has been credited as one of several people who revolutionized the medical delivery system by creating and fostering the capitated health care delivery model (managed care) in California. During this time, he was cited and quoted in several articles and professional papers documenting the history of capitated health care. Additionally, his photo and story were featured on the cover of Modern Healthcare magazine in February 1996, and he was used as a primary source throughout a lengthy study on capitated health care prepared in 1997 for the Kaiser Family Foundation.

He received numerous accolades throughout his career including being named as a County of Los Angeles Achievement Award recipient, an honoree of the year from the Senior Care Action Network, and receiving the corporation horizon award from UniHealth. Until just recently, he served on the board of the MemorialCare Medical Foundation as a director. He also previously served as a board member for the Spanish Trails Girl Scout Council, Queen City Bank, SCAN Health Plan, Unified Medical Group Association (prior to becoming CEO), the University of Southern California Masters in Health Care Advisory Board, and the County of Los Angeles Health Plan.

He spent the last 83 years of his life in Southern California, living in homes in Naples, Huntington Beach, and Claremont, along with the family vacation home in Lake Arrowhead.

“Above all else, Jim treasured and adored his family,” his family shared. “He was married to his college sweetheart and lifelong soulmate Judy for 64 years. He was an amazing son, husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He loved to spend time with the family, including planning and fulfilling many vacations that spanned the globe. He and Judy visited many countries throughout his lifetime. His love of travel was also shared with the rest of the family. He was the architect of many life-changing family trips, including a two-week cruise through the Panama Canal with Judy, his kids, and grandkids, and a river-rafting trip in Oregon with the same group.”

He loved participating and watching all types of sports and particularly enjoyed baseball and golf.  Starting in the 1950s, he became a lifelong Dodgers fan and loved watching the Dodgers on television and radio, listening to Vin Scully narrate the action. He was a regular at Dodger Stadium, estimated to have attended in excess of 300 regular and postseason games. As for golf, he had been a member of Old Ranch Country Club, playing regularly with his closest golf associates.

His story would not be complete without mentioning his affinity for trips down the Rogue River in Oregon. He took more than 20 three or four day fishing and rafting trips through the designated “wild and scenic” portion of the Rogue River with family and friends. Although he had countless stories from the various adventures, he was particularly proud of the 45-inch, 40-pound salmon he caught on one trip after a one-hour struggle as the boat raced down the river, moving in and out of rapids.

His culinary tastes were broad, but he had a couple of favorites: a cheeseburger and fries from In-N-Out and a Joe’s special with pickled eggs and a schooner of beer from Joe Jost’s in Long Beach.

“Jim was always an incredibly positive and optimistic person and would unanimously be deemed a ‘glass half full’ person by those around him,” his family added. “He was often happiest when his family and friends around him were happy, most likely because of the events and occasions he helped arrange. Just days before he passed, he spent the day with his entire immediate family celebrating family birthdays and Father’s Day. We were all able to give him our love and blessings — what a gift to us and him!”

He is survived by wife Judy; daughter Jean (and husband Tom); son Phil (and wife Monica);  granddaughters Kaiti (and husband Brandon) and Danielle; grandsons Matt and Christopher; great-grandson Arthur; and many nieces and nephews.

A celebration of life will be held in August.

“He will be greatly missed,” his family said. “Rest in peace.”


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