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William B. Hyland: Advertising executive, 'quiet' volunteer

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 31, 2011 - For much of his working life, William Hyland had been an advertising executive, representing some of the most well-known sports franchises in the nation.

But Mr. Hyland was right at 75 years old when he began a new career as a real estate agent. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch marked the change in its society column on Oct. 25, 1998: "Erstwhile ad exec William B. Hyland has joined Edward L. Bakewell as sales associate. ..."

Retirement, said his daughter, was simply not in his vocabulary.

"He still had his real estate license when his health failed him," said Hilary Hyland Hartung. "He never really retired; illness overtook him."

Mr. Hyland had been diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disease several years ago. He died at Mother of Good Counsel Home on Saturday (Aug. 27). He was 87 and had lived in Ladue.

A Mass for Mr. Hyland will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Thursday (Sept. 1) at the Church of the Annunziata.

For more than two decades, from the mid-'60s to the mid-'80s, Mr. Hyland led his own full-service advertising agency, Total Communications, which promoted such notable clients as the St. Louis Football Cardinals, the St. Louis Blues and Fairmount Park.


His ad clients were particularly appropriate for a man who was the son of the "surgeon general of baseball."

Mr. Hyland's father, Dr. Robert F. Hyland, who received his nickname from the first commissioner of baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was the team physician for the St. Louis Browns and the St. Louis Cardinals. That job gave Mr. Hyland and his brother, Robert Hyland Jr., unfettered and unlimited access to the baseball clubhouses.

"He talked about how much fun it was growing up in St. Louis," said Sarah Bakewell.

William Burks Hyland was born Sept. 7, 1923, the younger of Dr. Hyland and Genevieve Burks Hyland's two sons. The family lived in the Central West End across from the Cathedral Basilica-St. Louis on Lindell. He attended the old Barat Hall Elementary School and graduated from St. Louis University High School.

Following high school, he enrolled in Georgetown University, but it would be seven years later, 1948, before he would graduate. His education was interrupted by service in the U.S. Army during World War II.

A Quiet Volunteer

Mr. Hyland's advertising career gave him the opportunity to do good works in the community, but he chose not to trumpet his efforts.

"We never knew what he was doing until someone else mentioned it," his daughter laughed. "He was very involved in his community in a quiet, humble way. He did a lot of things people didn't realize he did. He was very, very quiet."

The things he did included serving as president of the board of directors of the St. Louis Association for Retarded Children (now St. Louis Arc). During his time with St. Louis Arc in the late 1960s, Mr. Hyland oversaw the organization's first big fundraiser. And it was really big. Titled "The Rose Ball," the event brought Rose Kennedy, mother of President John F. Kennedy, to St. Louis.

Mr. Hyland also spearheaded a committee that led to the formation of Rainbow Village, still the only facility here that provides long-term housing for people with developmental disabilities.

He also helped to establish the pastoral care program at Barnes Jewish Hospital and was a volunteer for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Cathedral Basilica.

Last of a Kind

"Uncle Bill was from a gentlemanly era and he was one of the last 'grand old men,'" said his niece, Molly Hyland. "People knew him as 'Mr. Hyland' or 'Uncle Bill,' even some who weren't related."

Bakewell agreed. "He always added a lot to the office," she said. "He was such a positive person; he had a gentlemanly quality about him."

Mr. Hyland loved to read and garden but only pretended to like golf. He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Janet Brodhead Hyland, to whom he was married 49 years, and his brother, Robert F. Hyland Jr., who led KMOX Radio for nearly 40 years.

He is survived by a daughter, Hilary Hyland (Cory) Hartung of St. Louis and a son, Michael Burks Hyland of St. Louis, and one grandchild, Carter McCormack Hartung.

A funeral Mass for Mr. Hyland will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1, at the Church of the Annunziata, 9305 Clayton Rd., Ladue, Mo. 63124. The family will greet friends immediately following the Mass. Burial will be private.

In lieu of flowers, memorials would be appreciated to Mother of Good Counsel Home, 6825 Natural Bridge, St. Louis, Mo. 63121.

Gloria Ross is the head of Okara Communications and the storywriter for AfterWords, an obituary-writing and production service. 

Gloria S. Ross is the head of Okara Communications and AfterWords, an obituary-writing and design service.

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