(Abridged from the West County Times; read the full article here.) Growing up poor in New Jersey before and during the Great Depression, Hulet Hornbeck learned to love nature when his mother took him by bus and train to the countryside. As a navigator on bomber missions in the Pacific Theater in World War II, he learned geography, maps, and math. After the war, he settled in Martinez and spent 20 years as an insurance lawyer — until a doctor mistakenly told him that skin cancer would kill him within a few years. He quit his job, joined the East Bay Regional Park District, and as head of land acquisition used his legal and WW II skills to help plan purchases that expanded the parks from 13,000 to 62,000 acres — adding 76 square miles to what is now the country’s largest regional park system. A strong advocate for open space, he also inspired others to act. BPFP President and co-founder John Steere, his nephew, credits him with inspiring John’s lifelong dedication to the commons. We are all in his debt.