Hilda Sauer

Long-time Pacific Palisades resident and prominent member of the local horticultural community Hilda Sauer passed away on January 9, age 96.

Mrs. Sauer was born Hilda Niomi Sievers in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 2, 1922. Her father, a railroad lineman at the time of her birth, soon developed tuberculosis as a result of exposure to poison gas during his military service in World War I. While he spent his remaining years confined to a sanatorium, Hilda’s mother, a woman of great strength of character, raised Hilda and her two brothers through the Great Depression, for several years living on a relative’s farm until that was lost to foreclosure.

The year Hilda entered high school, her family settled in Chenoa, Illinois. Despite her family’s straitened circumstances, she would retain many happy memories of life in small town Illinois and the people she knew there.

After graduating with honors from Chenoa High School, Hilda worked at various jobs, including as a typist for the State Farm Insurance Company in Bloomington, Illinois, until World War II changed her life course dramatically.

At her mother’s urging, she enlisted in the Women’s Army Corp and was stationed to the Pentagon where she served as a messenger (not on roller skates). There she met her future husband, Jonathan D. Sauer, who served in the Army’s Weather Service.

Although from very different backgrounds—Jonathan was the son of prominent Berkeley geographer and historian Carl Ortwin Sauer—each quickly decided they had met their perfect match. The marriage was to last for sixty-three years and bring great happiness to both.

After their discharge from the Army, both with the rank of sergeant, Hilda completed a B.S. degree in zoology and Jonathan a Ph.D. in botany at Washington University in St. Louis.

They relocated to Shorewood Hills, Wisconsin, when Jonathan joined the faculty of the Botany and Geography Departments of the University of Wisconsin. For several of their 17 years in Wisconsin, Hilda was employed by the university in administrative positions. She gave birth to their only child, Richard, in 1951.

The Sauer family moved to Pacific Palisades in 1967 when Jonathan accepted a professorship with the UCLA Geography Department.

Over the 50 years she was to live in the Palisades, Hilda was a much-valued member of the community. Her civic activities included being a founding member of Palisades Beautiful and a dedicated supporter of the Pacific Palisades Garden Club.

For many years she could be seen enhancing the beauty of the Palisades by planting street trees as requested by residents and working to establish its Native Plant Garden. Hilda had a penchant for travel and, during her married life, visited Australia and numerous countries in Europe, Central America and the Caribbean.

Jonathan passed away in 2008 but Hilda remained in her house in the Palisades until 2007, when she moved to an assisted living facility in Oakland, California, to be close to her remaining family. She spoke often of how fortunate she considered her life to have been, and her family and many friends cherished their good fortune to have been included in it.

Hilda is survived by her son Richard Sauer, daughter-in-law Eileen Killory and grandson Neal Sauer, all of Berkeley, California.