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Saturday, May 11, 2019
Starts at 2:00pm (Eastern time)
My precious father and best bud, Dr. Samuel David Hill, Sr. of Reidsville died from complications of stroke on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at home, surrounded by loved ones and making his stay on earth 89 years, 2 months and 26 days. He was born on February 5, 1930 on a farm in Pittsylvania Co VA, the son of William James Hill and Mary Gladys Blackburn Hill. He lost his youngest son, my brother Stuart Andrew Hill by suicide in 1989 and expressed his grief in many different ways for the remainder of his life. He also was deeply saddened by the death of dear friend and companion of many years, fellow Lynchburg College alumna Gail Hudson of Richmond VA. He is survived by sister Dot Lewis, brother Bill Hill, son David and daughter-in-law Cindy McEntyre Hill, first wife Jane Moulse Hill, second wife June Bowers, June's daughter Aaron Freeman, husband Patrick and their son Jackson. Dad reunited with his first wife Jane, my mother, who came to live with us in 2016 after suffering a fall and later a brain hemorrhage which left her unable to care for herself. Though divorced, my parents fell in love all over again bringing a much needed sweetness to his last days.
Dad was the first principal of Rockingham Sr. High School and led the school from 1977 until his retirement in 1992. He loved his students above all, considering each a priceless creation of the almighty and worthy of everything that he had. A devout humanitarian, he believed each and every individual had something to offer and it was the educator's task as well as privilege to help the student unleash the unique potential that lies in everyone. He also loved and greatly valued his teachers and expected the same level of service and commitment from them. He was so proud when Aaron entered the teaching profession.
Pop made many friends and ruffled a few feathers but he respected all of God's children. One of his greatest joys was running into his former students during his daily activities around Rockingham County. He was always excited to catch up with them and hear about their work, their children and grandchildren.
My father was a force of nature, always moving, always creating, always doing. He could not and would not have any part of lethargy. A lifelong gifted athlete and lover of the outdoors, he taught me to remain active throughout life and to respect, enjoy and cherish this beautiful earth that we inhabit and to protect it so that those in the future may do the same. In his prime, he had a garden every year which usually produced quite a bountiful harvest of fresh vegetables. He greatly enjoyed the tilling...years ago with a push plow...and planting as much as the reward. We built a house together here in Rockingham Co, finishing the interior and building a stone chimney, after Mr. Hunter London and crew carefully and expertly completed a beautiful post and beam infrastructure. Dad was a skillful furniture maker and kit builder in his middle years, giving away his creations as gifts to friends and family members.
After dad's retirement, we enjoyed a second childhood together that lasted over 20 years, hiking, working out, running, swimming and especially road biking the mountains of Virginia and the beautiful rolling country roads of our beautiful Rockingham county. As a young man, basketball was his passion and I remember as a child going to many of his games in local amateur leagues. He was excellent on the court with superb eyesight, speed, coordination coupled with an extreme vertical jumping ability. Pop was very active in the NC Masters Track and Field competitions in Raleigh and later in life, the NC Senior Games as a competitor in cycling, swimming and track and field, as well as acting as a Senior Games ambassador. A pretty good baritone singer, he sang in several local choirs over the years and greatly loved his Main Street Methodist choir family. He appeared in many plays with the Rockingham Co Theater Guild and was "Daddy Warbucks" in the production of "Annie" twice. A special treat for him was dancing every Friday night at the Senior Center in Danville. His people immigrated to this country from the British Isles, Scandinavia, France, Germany, Italy and he had a slave ancestor from the area of West Africa that is now Nigeria. I appreciate all my father's kin, who are likewise my kin, who sacrificed and suffered mightily and who lived and died to carve out an existence in this world, giving us our lives.
Pop and mom both came from very musically talented families. His mother played piano and knew all the old hymns and his father was an incredible harmonica player throughout his life and played the guitar in his younger days. Once when I had my guitar up at Nanny and Papa's, I asked Papa to 'pick one' for me and he didn't hesitate to play even though his hands were worn and fingers stiff from a lifetime of hard work. My father deeply loved his mom and dad and showed his respect for them in both speech and action. We are hardcore Bluegrass and Old Time music fans and so proud of all our musicians, especially his first cousin singer- songwriter Betty Amos who was a multi-instrumentalist and member of the great Louisiana Hayride along with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, 'Jumping' Bill Carlisle and all the rest of the Hayride musical family. Betty's dad Lonnie Amos was a truck driver and the loving and caring husband to our sweet Annie Hill. Betty wrote the first ever "truck driver" songs, "Eighteen Wheels a Rolling" and "Blazing Smokestacks" which she and others recorded.
My father graduated from Altavista High School in Altavista VA, received a BS in Physical Education from Lynchburg College in 1953 and a Master of Education degree in Physical Education from the University of Virginia in 1954. . Later, in August 1961 he was awarded the Doctor of Education degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from UVA and his dissertation topic was "The Development of Criteria for Orientation Programs for New Teachers". As an Army National Guardsman, G.I. Bill benefits combined with a loan from his kind boss at the Lane Company in Altavista enabled him to begin his college education at Lynchburg.
He studied school law at UVA, sociological aspects of leadership at NC State, staff development at UNC Chapel Hill, teacher evaluation at AASA in Dallas and diagnostic prescriptive processes at ASU.
He has taught math, science, health and physical education. He coached football, basketball and baseball in the Roanoke VA schools and was part-time instructor of health, physical education, life saving and water safety at the UVA school of education where he was also research assistant in the division of educational research.
In the early 60's he was the elementary school principal at Fishersville Elementary in Fishersville VA, a job he greatly enjoyed and was general supervisor of instruction for the Augusta County VA schools. Later he was director of instruction for the Warren-Rappahannock VA schools. At Radford College in VA he was associate professor of education and physical education, assistant to the director of admissions, supervisor of student teachers and administrator of a three week orientation program of head start teachers and aides.
From 1967 to 1976 he served as deputy assistant superintendent for the administrative services area of the NC Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh. As such, he directed a staff development program of all employees in the department, has directed a staff development program for superintendents, principals and supervisors in the public school system of the state and he has served on visiting teams to evaluate teacher education programs in NC colleges and universities.
He has headed the selection process of the NC "Teacher of the Year," has served on the State Accreditation committee and on the State Advisory Council on Aging and planned staff development conferences for local school system coordinators of staff development.
While dad was the principal at Fishersville Elementary our family was blessed to spend several years living in a very unique and special place known as "The Post" with good friends Bill and Dot Stansberry, Paul Davis, Gordon Stewart and Hugh K. Cassell as neighbors. This wonderful community was the subject of a book and film entitled "Hope Reborn of War" by Nancy T. Sorrells. The film is on YouTube. Once, as a small child, I ran away from home one sunny afternoon, heading down the road for Fishersville Elementary because I missed my father when he was at work. Some neighbors picked me up out on the highway and took me back home to my terrified mother. While at the Post, I watched intently, absorbing my father's woodworking skills as he built a pine study desk for me and later a beautiful over the cab camper complete with fold down beds, for our '62 Chevy pickup that we used for many years of wonderful outdoor excursions to Whispering Pines Campground - now an RV Park - on Wilson Creek below Douthat State Park in VA.
On the last day of his "active" life in 2013, my father suffered a massive stroke in the locker room of the Eden YMCA. We were able to get him to a local hospital emergency room expeditiously. Once there and exhibiting virtually all of the classic symptoms of stroke, the ER physician declared that he was not having a stroke but rather this was a "middle ear problem." A CT scan ruled out hemorrhagic stroke yet he refused to administer the clot busting medication TPA. After a time in the ER the doctor finally stated that dad "was having an ischemic stroke" and instead of starting the TPA at that point and knowing full well that every passing second meant more irreversible brain damage, he had him sent to Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro. Once at Cone, the ER physician there said, "I'm sorry, but it's too late to give the TPA." The window of time for giving TPA has since been greatly enlarged. After his stroke, my father could not speak, walk or turn over in bed. He had lost the use of his left arm and leg and would be permanently imprisoned in a body that would never again function as it had. He entered Camden Place in Greensboro and began a grueling three months of fighting to regain some semblance of his previous life. His work ethic in rehab was something to witness. He steadfastly carried on and fought through great pain for the last 6 1/2 years of his life.
The family would like offer heartfelt thanks to the therapists at Camden Place and in particular Galina Sokolski whose hard work, enthusiasm and genius gave dad hope and helped to get him walking again with the aid of a walker. With great dedication, his speech therapist enabled him to speak again...slowly and with difficulty and the superb occupational therapist helped my father to be able to don and doff his clothing, take care of bathroom duties and perform simple grooming, all done with great effort. I had some good help from caregiver Joyce Johnson during the last months of pop's life. I'm so thankful for the immeasurable support from my Aunt Dot and cousin Nan.
I wish to express my gratitude to two of my father's college buds, Dr. Jack Jones and Al Ricks for keeping up with dad all throughout his last great challenges in this life. I will also be forever grateful to the Rockingham County EMS who gave tireless, compassionate and gentle care to my father and mother during these difficult past few years.
Thank-you dad for all you have given me...I will always love you and miss you.
A memorial service and celebration of his life will be held at 2:00 PM on Saturday, May 11, 2019 at Wilkerson Funeral Home Chapel with Dr. Bob Kerr officiating.