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Retired Clayton Engineer Volunteers for Symphony, Plays Piano

Milton Hieken lives in the city's Wydown Forest neighborhood and recently received recognition as an Ageless-Remarkable St. Louisan by St. Andrew's Resources for Seniors System.

resident Milton Hieken spends his post-engineer days giving back to cultural and charitable organizations throughout St. Louis. He says the reason is simple: he wants future generations to have the same opportunities he did.

"When you retire, you're not just going to sit on the front porch in the rocking chair all day," Hieken, 81, said during an interview at his home in the Wydown Forest neighborhood.

On Nov. 6, Hieken received recognition as an Ageless-Remarkable St. Louisan by St. Andrew's Resources for Seniors System. The system held a celebration at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch to honor 20 such seniors "whose involvement and vitality enhance our lives and our community," a program brochure states.

Growing up, working hard
Hieken was born  in East St. Louis, IL, and went to school in Granite City, IL. He graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in engineering and spent two years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force.

From there, Hieken worked nearly 41 years for McDonnell Douglas Corp. He was employed in the company's test labs focusing on its various St. Louis products and provided support for its transport aircraft. He retired before Boeing purchased the business.

Hieken enjoyed his work. In his younger years, he tagged along with an older brother who had an interest in science and gained an affinity for the subject.

But Hieken thinks many people today are in careers they're not too happy with. And being happy with one's career is important.

"I think that's the only way that you're going to do your best," he said.

Hieken recently heard KMOX 1120 AM personality Charlie Brennan interviewing Occupy St. Louis protesters. He doesn't discount the protesters' message. But he said many people think the world owes them a living.

Hieken, who uses an iPhone and an iMac, points to Steve Jobs as someone who found success by doing his own thing with creativity.

"You've got to show up on time," Hieken said. "Literally."

Volunteering, giving
These days Hieken serves on a couple of committees for the St. Louis Symphony, but his community involvement goes beyond that.

For a while, he traveled throughout St. Louis in a truck picking up surplus food from bakeries and groceries to be distributed to food pantries via Operation Food Search.

He and his wife, Barbara Barenholtz, also donate to entities such as the Saint Louis Zoo and Saint Louis Art Museum.

Hieken points to state-funded universities to explain why he thinks contributions are needed: Students have the opportunity to attend those colleges because of contributions made by people who came before them. In giving, he hopes the institutions he supports will be available for the next generation.

Family life and hobbies
Hieken has three children and two grandchildren. His wife has four children and nine grandchildren. Most of their immediate family members live in the St. Louis area. Before moving to Clayton, he lived in Creve Coeur.

The couple enjoy the arts and traveling. They plan to take in the St. Louis Art Museum's Monet exhibition in the near future. Recently, they visited New York's Hudson River Valley and toured mansions built by famous people such as the Rockefellers and Roosevelts. The engineer in Hieken enjoys architecture.

Hiekden and Barenholtz have fixed up an old MG sports car. At one point, it sat on blocks. Now, it's in driving condition. The two are members of St. Louis MG Club.

Hieken works out three times a week at . He's also been taking piano lessons for more than 15 years.

"That's something else I indulge myself in," he said.

Hieken and his wife like their neighborhood, which is home to a mix of generations. He spends time making repairs to their house, which dates to 1933.

"We really enjoy living in Clayton," Hieken said.

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