See more of the story

With nearly 80,000 residents and one of the largest business parks in the state, Plymouth is now the seventh-largest city in Minnesota.

As mayor from 1968 to 1977, Al Hilde Jr. helped create the blueprint the west metro suburb followed as it rapidly transitioned from largely rural farmland into a prospering suburban community.

"He saw the need for a comprehensive plan," said Jim Willis, who has been on the Plymouth City Council since the 1970s. From extending sewer and water lines to guiding land use, "everything was well planned and thought out. He personified the spirit of somebody who wanted to contribute to his community and make it a better place to live and raise a family."

Hilde died July 28 at his home in Jackson, Wyo., where he moved in the mid-1980s to enjoy the mountains and his passions for flying and hunting. He was 90.

Hilde graduated from Logan High School in LaCrosse, Wis., where his name was added to the school's Wall of Fame in 1988. He earned a degree in business administration from the University of Minnesota and spent two years in the U.S. Army stationed in Texas.

He started training to become a dental hygienist, but soon realized "that wasn't going to be what he was doing," said his son, Todd, of Austin, Texas. Instead, Hilde turned his interest to portable sanitation after learning about small toilets the Army was using in Long Beach, Calif., because it was too expensive to keep shuttling ship builders back to the dock to use the bathroom.

With the idea of bringing dignity to outdoor sanitation, Hilde founded Satellite Industries in 1958 and built and marketed his first wooden portable toilets to Minneapolis contractors.

"Nobody knew what they were," his son recalled. "We had to sell them on the value, and the value was productivity, not having your hourly workers jump in the car and go down to the gas station to go potty. And saving human dignity by not forcing people to go out in the woods."

Hilde grew the Plymouth-based firm into one of the largest in the sanitation rental industry, with more than 15 models of portable restrooms and other products used in 130 countries. He was honored with the Minnesota Governor's Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Community and Economic Development" in 1970.

Hilde was also a generous man, his son said. Music was a big part of his life, and yearly he brought the Minnesota Orchestra to Plymouth for an outdoor concert. When crowds got too big for the vacant lot where the orchestra played, Hilde donated $1 million for the Hilde Performance Center, an outdoor bandshell built adjacent to City Hall.

"It came from his desire to take high-quality music and bring it to the people," Todd Hilde said. The performance art center and the Music in Plymouth series "is one of his legacies."

Guided by his Christian faith and a strong work ethic, Hilde believed in work before play. He never shied away from tough tasks and made sure the job got done, those who knew him said.

"He had enormous integrity; he had it in spades," Willis said. "He had a great deal of trust and relationships with the City Council, the town staff and the public he served."

Besides his son, Todd, Al Hilde is survived by his wife of 70 years, Jayne, of Jackson, Wyo., sons Tim, of Vergas, Minn. and Bret of LaBelle, Fla., sisters Ann Ebbers, of Plymouth, and Carol Stewart, of Tacoma Park, Md., and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Services have been held.