Shannon Hilgart, beloved sister, aunt, cousin, friend and mentor, died peacefully on May 8 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. A celebration of her life will be held at a future date when it is safe to travel and gather.
Shannon was born on Oct. 29, 1959, to the late Virginia Dell and Richard James Hilgart on Stewart Airforce Base in Smyrna, Tenn. After her father died when Shannon was eight years old, she moved with her family to live with her grandparents in Marietta, Okla., a place she would thereafter refer to as her roots. Her middle and high school years were spent in Hurst, Texas where she graduated from L.D. Bell High School and made lifelong friends she cherished and with whom she continued to spend time until the end of her life.
Shannon, who believed fervently that the most vulnerable in our society are worthy of respect and opportunity, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in social work and spent her early career working on issues of poverty and mental health. But it was in the early 1990s, when she lost her cousin and a close friend to AIDS, that she began her life’s work of preventing HIV/AIDS and supporting those with or at risk of HIV. Shannon started at AIDS Outreach Center in 1996 as a case manager and held positions of increasing responsibility until 2013, when she was named executive director, a position she held until her death.
Shannon loved travel and adventure, and visited most countries in Europe, Asia and South America. She spent the preponderance of her time traveling alone in the more rural parts of a country, finding wonder and beauty in the richness of people, culture and place. Through her love of music of all genres, Shannon made many of the best friends in her life. She was a passionate, wise, generous and joyous person who leaves behind a wide and diverse group of family and friends who are better and happier for having known her.
She is survived by her sister Laura Hilgart; brother Jim Hilgart; nephews Sam Betsill and JJ Hilgart; niece Tricia Hilgart, and cousins, Julie, Charlie, Matthew, Emily and Poppy White.
Dan Villegas, president of the AOC Board of Advisors, said, “Shannon worked tirelessly towards AOC’s mission of helping people with, or at risk for HIV, to live with dignity and respect. She loved her staff, and she loved working with clients. On behalf of the many volunteers who have served on the AOC board, we appreciate and respect her leadership and her efforts. The best way for us to honor her legacy is for AOC to continue to be a resource, an advocate and a champion for those living with HIV in our community.”
If you would like to make a memorial gift, please direct it to AIDS Outreach Center, 400 N. Beach St, Fort Worth, TX 76111.