|Gilbert Burnside "Gil" Hebard, 94 died Sunday morning, Oct. 28, 2012 at his home. A lifelong Knoxville, Illinois resident, Mr. Hebard founded the nationally known Gil Hebard Guns in 1950 and operated it with his wife, Mary Elizabeth Hebard, who survives. Mr. Hebard was active in the business until mid-July when ill health confined him to his home.
Mr. Hebard was well-known in his industry for earning National Rifle Association competitive pistol marksmanship titles, achieved in the 1970s and 1980s. He was named to the National Rifle Association Hall of Fame in 1999 as Handgunner of the Year, and earned the Jurras Top 10 Outstanding American Handgunner Award in 1975. The champion shooter was also known for advancing the sport with many innovations. He authored articles about competitive target shooting and produced a reference for the sport, "Pistol Shooters Treasury" in 1960. Gil Hebard Guns produced annual catalogs from the 1950s until 2005.
Mr. Hebard was born in the family home on Division Street in Knoxville, April 7, 1918 to Orpha (Burnside) and Gene Hebard, who preceded him in death as did a sister Harriet and brother Gene. He married Mary Elizabeth Nelson on Feb. 14, 1944. She survives along with four nieces, three nephews and a number of great nieces and nephews.
Mr. Hebard graduated from Knoxville High School in 1936, and while a student, he participated in track and football, learned to play the trumpet and led a 10-member dance band which performed regionally at hotels and events for several years.
After attending Brown Business College in Galesburg, he attended Knox College for three years. In preparing to join the U.S. Navy during World War II, Mr. Hebard obtained this college degree from Carthage College and entered the U.S. Navy. He served as a lieutenant on a U.S. Navy vessel, a Yard Minesweeper, in the North Atlantic, until the end of the war in 1945.
Active in Scouting as a youth, Mr. Hebard was an Eagle Scout, a member of the Order of the Arrow, and credited Scouting with the development of his interest in the outdoors as well as character traits that benefited him throughout his life.
When Mr. Hebard stopped participating in competitive shooting in 1986, he and his wife became devoted member of the Audubon Society and made "birding" trips throughout the nation, to Newfoundland and Canada, seeking to identify as many different species as possible.
Civic contributions by Mr. Hebard were his service on the Knoxville City Planning Commission since 1976 to 2011 and the Hebard couple's recent donation of a new building, the Knox County Historical Museum to the Knox County Historical Society. He loved Knoxville.
Graveside Memorial Service will be held on Friday, November 2, 2012 at 2:00 P.M. at the Knoxville Cemetery, Knoxville, Illinois. Mr. Frank Wallace Officiating. Military Rites will be conducted by the Ralph M. Noble American Legion Post Honor Guard # 285. In-lieu of flowers, the family suggests any memorial gifts be directed to the local church of the donorís choice, the Knoxville Library, the Knox County Historical Society or the Illinois Audubon Society Fellowship will follow the graveside services at the Hurd-Hendricks Fellowship Center in Knoxville, Illinois. Hurd-Hendricks Funeral Homes & Crematory in Knoxville, Illinois in charge of arrangements. On-line condolences or sympathy cards may be sent through www.hurd-hendricksfuneralhome.com