Pioneer rancher, businessman, and South Florida agricultural icon Joe Marlin Hilliard, 79, passed away surrounded by family and friends on August 26, 2022 in Naples, Florida. He was born in Ft Myers, Florida at Lee Memorial Hospital on January 18, 1943 to Joe Alexander Hilliard and Wilmuth Gabriele “Tippy” Yarbrough.
Born into a distinguished ranching family, Joe Marlin grew up on the famed Hilliard Ranch in Hendry County. Following graduation from Clewiston High School in 1961, he began his career working on Hilliard Brothers Cattle Ranch, which was founded by his grandfather in 1906 and later owned by his father and uncle in the 1920s. As he took over management, Joe Marlin would greatly expand upon the family business, enhancing the cattle operation with large investments in sugarcane, citrus, and vegetable production.
Joe Marlin Hilliard’s leadership skills over the years provided major advances for South Florida’s cattle, citrus and sugarcane industries. In 2017, Joe Marlin Hilliard was inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame—recognizing his life-long achievements and enduring efforts to secure the success of the farming and ranching industries that he loved.
His successful farming legacy will continue to build on its great heritage as Hilliard Brothers of Florida remains a family operation with Joe Marlin Hilliard’s two sons’ Joe Marlin II, Bryan, and his daughter Mary Elizabeth; all directly involved in different aspects of the business.
Along with his loving wife Barbara Jean, whom he married in 1985, Joe Marlin Hilliard was also an active member of the local community and his generous philanthropic efforts provided funding to numerous local and state organizations. A strong believer in education, he has funded the Joe Marlin Hilliard Endowed Scholarship at the King Ranch Institute of Ranch Management at Texas A&M, Kingsville and the Joe Marlin and Barbara Hilliard Scholarship at Florida Gulf Coast University and many others.
More importantly, he was a devoted Christian and family man who greatly valued family and friends. An avid outdoorsman throughout his life, Joe Marlin Hilliard graciously shared his love of hunting and fishing with friends and colleagues, extending invitations to join him on these adventures.
Joe Marlin lived on the Hilliard Ranch outside Clewiston for most of his life and raised his family there. He also had a retirement home in Naples, Florida. He was predeceased by parents Joe A. and “Tippy” Hilliard. Joe Marlin Hilliard is survived by his beloved wife of 37 years, Barbara, his children, Joe Marlin Hilliard, II (Chelsa), Mary E Hilliard Carroll, and Bryan Reed Hilliard, stepson Richard Parker and stepdaughter Alicia Snyder, and grandchildren Rana Hilliard, Joe A. “Jack” Hilliard, II, Madeline Carroll, Lily Carroll, Isabelle Hilliard, Bryan Reed Hilliard II, Isla Hilliard and Jessica Snyder.
Visitation will be held at Hodges Funeral Home in Naples on September 2, beginning at 1 pm. Services will directly follow. Internment will take place after the service at Hodges Funeral Home at Naples Memorial Gardens.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Shriners Hospitals for Children