Jerry K. Hill passed away on Wednesday March 22nd at the age of 75, due to complications of his ongoing battle with lung cancer. He spent his final days surrounded by family and close friends.
It will not be possible to sum up Jerry’s life, and his impact on those around him, in a few paragraphs. The irony is that Jerry had an incredible gift for words, for saying the right thing at the right time, and for putting people at ease; though he would eschew the task, he would be the perfect person for this job.
The people that love Jerry may have known him as many different things: friend, father, mentor, coach, pastor, artist, speaker. The reality is that he was genuinely all of those things, as well as many more.
Jerry was a lifelong carpenter, craftsman, and artist. He designed furniture, made home repairs, built and painted theatrical sets, and created beautiful artwork for no reason other than the joy of creation. If he didn’t know how to do something, he asked for help, acquired new skills, and was never afraid to try and fail. He could do big, rough builds all the way down to the beautifully intricate details. He loved to collaborate and was always happy to help a friend with a project of their own. He built toys and treehouses for children and grandchildren. He spent countless hours on an endless list of projects, almost all of which were for someone else.
He spent most of his professional life as a pastor; and though he was truly exceptional in that regard, it would rarely be the first thing he would mention about himself. He never put himself above a congregation, rather he engaged those around him in an ongoing conversation. He spoke with an effortless eloquence about his own curiosity and struggles. He never stopped asking questions, and was never afraid to turn the microscope inward. In his long career, he earned the trust and respect of his peers and colleagues because of courage and convictions. He stood up for what was right, consequences and perceptions defiantly be damned. His faith was not fragile and his love was never conditional.
His absolute insistence on forming personal connections left us all feeling as though we had a special connection with him, because we did. When those who knew him wanted to celebrate a love, or mourn a loss, they turned to Jerry. Sometimes, people who didn’t know him at all requested his services based on a recommendation alone. If you didn’t have a personal connection with him beforehand, you certainly formed one along the way. He officiated hundreds and hundreds of weddings, unions, baptisms, confirmations, and funerals. Even throughout his treatments and hospital visits, he formed bonds and made an impact on all those encountered. He has marked and created some of the most important moments of so many lives.
Jerry was born on December 21, 1947 to Keith and Okal Hill in Nitro, WV. Growing up, he was a natural athlete, a good friend, and often referred to as THE guy at Nitro High School. When recently reminded of this, he casually waved it off. Among his many defining qualities, sincere humility was very near the top of the list.
After leaving home, he moved to Cincinnati to attend the University of Cincinnati. From there, he went on to earn a Masters of Divinity from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary at Northwestern University. After living in Chicago and Columbus, Jerry settled back in Cincinnati and lived here for nearly forty years.
Jerry loved a good conversation. He was always eager to dig deeper, wax philosophical, and tackle life’s big mysteries. Anyone who met him likely found themselves in such a conversation with him at one time or another. He asked the kind questions that made you think hard, and he listened intently and without judgment. He was patient and thoughtful, encouraging and kind. He believed fiercely in interconnectivity and unsurprisingly, many people felt a strong connection to him.
What happens to us after we die, he never claimed to know, but found endlessly fascinating. At funerals, or in conversations about death, he would likely say that the body left behind no longer holds the spirit of the deceased. He liked to think that we simply become a different piece of the fabric that connects us all. His decision to donate his remains to medical research is a beautiful extension of that belief. In a final selfless act, his hope is that the vessel that served him well, and that we all loved so much, can still be useful now that he’s gone.
He is survived by the love of his life, June; his children, Lindsay (Sergey), Martha (Kevin), and Jake (Anna); his nephew Jeff (Janet); his grandchildren Kate and Maggie; his father-in-law Charles, sister-in-law Bev, and brother-in-law Chuck. Waiting for him with open arms are his parents, Keith and Okal; his sister Pat; his nephew Brian; his brother-in-law Charlie; his mother-in-law Joyce.
A service celebrating Jerry’s life will be held on Monday, March 27th 2023, 6:00pm, at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts. Doors to open and live music to begin at 5:30. The celebration will also be livestreamed.
If you are moved to do so, please make a donation to a charity of your choosing or Cincinnati Landmark Production in Jerry’s honor. It is not hyperbole to say that he is truly loved and will be dearly missed by thousands of people. If you are one of those people, he would want you to know that you are not alone, that we are all connected, and that he absolutely felt your love.