Sources include: Detroit Free Press The Detroit News Observer & Eccentric Media / Hometown Weeklies Livingston County Daily Press & Argus

73, died of leukemia Sunday, April 3, 2005 at home, cared for by her family, in Plymouth Michigan. Engineer, Alternative Fuel Consultant Roberta Jean Hilts was born November 29, 1931 to Robert and Winifred Hilts in Los Angeles, California, graduated from Santa Monica High School and attended UCLA and USC (PhD Engineering USC 1979) She attained all three of her degrees while working full time and raising a family. She worked in the aerospace industry for nearly 20 years in Los Angeles, then worked for Ford Motor Company from 1979 to 1995, first as a principal research engineer, then as a manager, working with alternative fuels and electric vehicle research. She was a pioneering leader in the fields of alternative fuels and automotive engineering and an inspiration to women in engineering. She holds three patents for the Flexible Fuel Vehicle. She was the first woman to be elected as a Fellow of the Society of Automotive Engineers, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Society of Women Engineers, and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. She was a downhill skier for 58 years, up until the time of her death, still going down the expert runs. She raced cars at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Her fastest time was 190 mph. She held the women's world record for quarter mile drag boats from 1966 to 1969. She also competed in vintage car racing with her 1954 Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing, which she had restored herself. She loved to play bridge and was an avid gardener. She is survived by her husband Lynn Yakel, sister Jacqueline Oblinger, daughter Kathleen McDonald, stepsons David Yakel and Dennis Yakel, and grandchildren Gina Lagattuta, Flora Lagattuta, Lydia McDonald and John McDonald, and her beloved Beagle, Freckles. She was preceded in death by her parents, her first husband William McDonald and her son Robert McDonald. Many thanks for the excellent care received from Dr. Barthell, Clinical Nurse-Specialist Cathy Baldy, the Hospice staff and the staff of Henry Ford Hospital. In lieu of flowers please send any donations to the UC Riverside Foundation for the Benefit of the Roberta Nichols Yakel Scholarship Fund (Ford Motor Co. is matching any from Ford employees) 252A Highlander Hall, Riverside CA 92521 A memorial will be planned for the Detroit area at a later date. If you would like to be contacted about this please contact Kathleen McDonald, 2115 N. 29th St., Boise, Idaho 83703

From The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press

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Chuck/Mary Risch04/12/2005

Roberta was the best boss that I ever had. She was brilliant, friendly, fun, and most importantly fair. She and her family have been friends of us and our family for many years. Because of her, we are better people and the world is a better place to live.

Patricia Cothran04/12/2005

I have known Roberta for many years. I worked with her and then for her. I really felt it a privilege, as she was truly a wonderful boss. No matter if she just walked in from a weeks trip to China, or had stacks of work to do, she was always with a ready smile and took time for sincere concern for others. Roberta always treated me with respect. She treated me as an equal, even though I understood nothing at all about Alt Fuels and the like. Because of the caring person that Robert was, we became more than manager and admin, we became friends. I loved to hear her talk about her family. She loved them so, and spoke of them often with great pride. Always on her list of things she felt passionate about .. Alt Fuels; racing her cars and boats; rebuilding her Mercedes engine and playing her piano. Oh, how she loved all of life! She said that she learned the love of cars and mechanics from working in the garage with her dad. And whatever Roberta did, she did it with style and grace. She was quite a lady. I will truly miss our Dr. Bob. One last hug.

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