February 5, 1930
May 1, 2019
My precious father and best bud, Dr. Samuel David Hill, Sr. of Reidsville, N.C. 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. The middle child of three, he is survived by older sister Dorothy Lewis of Greensboro, N.C., a homemaker and retired public school teacher and younger brother Bill Hill of Richmond, a retired Virginia State Trooper. He lost his youngest son, Stuart Andrew Hill by suicide in 1989 and grieved to the very end. He also was deeply saddened by the death of dear friend and companion of many years, Gail Hudson of Richmond Va. He is survived by first wife, Jane Moulse Hill; second wife, June Bowers; son David and daughter-in-law, Cindy McEntyre Hill from the beautiful town of Calhoun, Ga. Dad reunited with his first wife, Jane, my mother, who came to live with us in 2016 after suffering a broken back from a fall and later a brain hemorrhage and brain injury 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.
Dr. Hill 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. One of his greatest joys was running into his students during his daily activities around Rockingham County. He was always excited to catch up with them and hear about their children and grandchildren. They were and always will be part of his family. He also loved and greatly valued his teachers and expected the same level of service and commitment from them. He made many friends and ruffled a few feathers but respected all of God's children.
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 incredible earth that we inhabit as well as 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 gifted furniture maker in his middle years, never selling any pieces but rather giving away his creations as gifts to friends and family members. He, as well as my mother came from a very musically gifted family. His mother played piano and his father was an incredible harmonica player throughout his life and played the guitar in his younger days. His first cousin, singer- songwriter Betty Amos, 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.
After dad's retirement, we enjoyed a second childhood together that lasted over 20 years, hiking, running, swimming and especially road biking the mountains of Virginia and the beautiful rolling country roads of our blessed Rockingham County with many other sweet locales to boot. As a young man, basketball was his passion and as a child I remember 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 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, France, Germany, Italy, and Scandinavia and he had a slave ancestor from West Africa in the area 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 thereby giving us our lives; each individual a priceless link in the chain.
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. As an United States Army National Guardsman, the G.I. bill combined with a loan from his boss at the Land Company in Altavista, enabled him to begin his college education at Lynchburg. 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".
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.
He was elementary school principal at Fishersville Elementary in Fishersville, Va., a job he greatly enjoyed, and general supervisor of instruction for the Augusta County, Va. schools. Later he was director of instruction for the Warren-Rappahonnock 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. Our family was blessed to spend several years living in a very unique and special place known as "The Post" in Fishersville 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 delivered 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.
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 directed 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.
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. A one time EMT as well as a stroke survivor myself, I was shocked by his incompetence and angered by his inaction. 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." Interestingly, 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 wish to express my gratitude to my father's best 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. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the selfless heroes at Rockingham County EMS.
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 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, 2019 at Wilkerson Funeral Home Chapel with Dr. Bob Kerr officiating. The family is in the care of Wilkerson Funeral Home.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.wilkersonfuneral.com.