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HomeAlfred Hill - Interview

by Jane Hill 
Al Hill’s Story

Well, I certainly wish Al could tell you his own story, but that ability has faded in
recent years. However, he has told me his story in pretty good detail throughout our
years together, and I'm happy to share it with you now.

Alfred Grey Hill was adopted from the hospital in Richmond, Va, by Harry Hill and
his beloved Levantia. After 15 years of marriage, they were thrilled to welcome their
darling baby boy into their home in Washington, D.C. Joy was short lived, however, as
Levantia soon died. Harry remarried in time, and he and his second wife added two
more boys to the family. Unfortunately, the second wife died when Al was eight years
old, and so there was a grandmother or a stern housekeeper on the scene for many
years. Harry's position as division chief in the Patent Office provided a nice, middle-
class living for the family, and Al remembers with delight all his playmates who lived in
the Glover Park area of D.C. He would name them all and point out their homes when
he and I returned for visits to the area. The mothers of those playmates saw to it that
Al was included in all neighborhood activities.

When WW II began, the Patent Office was moved overnight to Richmond, VA.,
and that is where Al finished high school.

Classical music was always an important part of Al's life. He began piano
lessons as a youngster, and later fell in love with the pipe organ. He was quite the
young prodigy, and I still have a program of his recital at age sixteen at a prestigious
church in the D. C. area. This interest in music led him to Oberlin College in Ohio
where he studied for two years, until his father’s retirement meant tuition funds were

Now needing to enter the work force, Al heard of many factory jobs where his
Aunt Martha and Uncle Ray lived in Alton, IL. Al decided to move there and look for a
job. Al had spent summers at the old home place in southern Indiana with his cousins,
Ray and Martha’s son and daughter. He soon discovered that those good factory jobs
were all going to the GIs returning from the Second World War, and “Rightfully so!”, as
Al noted. But there was this burgeoning school age population, that baby boom we've
all heard about, and Alton (and everywhere) was desperate for teachers.
So Al began his teaching career at a junior high school, teaching “whatever they
told me to!” as he says. History, French, Latin, English and mathematics, all were
assigned to him in those early year. Then along came the Korean Police Action, and
Al's draft number was up! He loved to travel, and Uncle Sam obliged, taking him to
Korea, where he was stationed at a headquarters company because he could type and
spell and write complete sentences!

Back home after a couple of tough Korean winters, Al jumped right back into the
junior high classroom where he (and his students) thrived. He is the only teacher I
know who prefers that middle age-group of almost-teens to any other. Mostly that age
group drives teachers nuts! While teaching he completed his Bachelor’s degree from
Washington University in St. Louis, and later his Masters plus from the University of

Following his best friend (also a teacher) and his family, Al moved to Collinsville,
Il, where he completed his career in public school administration. His popularity as a
teacher and an administrator was legendary.

At age 56, owning his own home, and not owing a cent to anyone, and not
having any family to provide for, and loving to travel, Al decided to take early
retirement! He then began a hobby in stained glass, perfected his love of refinishing
antiques and traveled the parts of the world that enticed him.

He married me when he was sixty-four; I was forty-nine and loving every minute
of teaching French in the classroom in which I had first learned French. Al asked that I,
too, retire when I was fifty-six so that we would have years together (hopefully) to
travel. While I was still teaching, we took my students (15 of our closest adolescent
friends, as we liked to say) on trips to Spain and France, Italy and France, England and
France during summers. My students (all students) loved Al. On occasions when he
would come by my classroom to ask a question, I knew of his presence behind me
without turning around, as every eye turned to the door and every face broke into
smile. Frequently a carload of teens would drive past our home, and we’d hear the
familiar yells, “Hi, Mrs. Hill! Hi, Al!” Then when I did retire, we enjoyed trips with friends
and without all over Western Europe, to Thailand, and then discovered Amtrak travel
and cruises!

And throughout the years we have both loved road trips, including ones from
Alton, IL, to Twisp, à distance of exactly 2000 miles one way. We drove that trip in
2010 and 2012. As we said goodbye to the family in 2012, me in typical tears, Al said
to my son Paul, “Oh, hell! Why don't we just move here!” And the rest, as they say, is
history. We spent July of 2013 here (another road trip) designing our little home,
returned to Illinois, and moved happily into our Bridge street home in May of 2014 just
in time to learn about forest fires!

Al frequently has enough memory to note that he began on one coast and is
ending up on the other - from Washington to Washington. And I hope sometime you
might have a chance to ask him about our nation’s capital. Even at almost 91, you can
always get him to talk about his love for that city of his childhood.


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