Union dedicates town report to longtime resident, veteran

Jun 08, 2018
Courtesy of: Town of Union From left, Greg Grotton chairman of the Union Board of Selectmen, Joyce Hills, Emeline Hills, Lorna Hills, Justin Hills and Vice Chair of Selectmen Lyle Cramer pose at the dedication of the town report to the late Don Hills.

Union — The town of Union dedicated this year’s annual report to Donald F. (Don) Hills. Before the printing of the report, Hills passed away. He was visited at Togus by resident Barry Norris and was told of the dedication.

The town issued a press release June 8 about the dedication, which noted that, except for the first few years of marriage and one winter spent working in Florida, Hills was content to live the remainder of his almost 71 years in the town of Union. His ancestral roots run deep, since he is a descendant of Phillip Robbins, one of the earliest settlers of Union, on his mother’s side; and a 10th-generation descendant of Reuben Hills, who in 1802 settled his family on the land where Hills lived.

Born Aug. 8, 1947, to Vivian (Viv) and Marguerite (Robbins) Hills, he was brought home to the Hills homestead on Sennebec Road. He grew up there with his older sister, Joyce. He never knew his father, a World War II veteran who died from leukemia when he was about a year old, according to the release. Eventually, his mother met and married Richard (Dick) Gorden, of whom Hills has commented that he “could not have picked a better stepfather.” With Gorden being the owner/operator of F. W. Gorden & Son, the local general store, and his mother running Hills Rest Home for more than 30 years, Hills grew up observing the dedication and personal sacrifices it often takes to run a successful business.

After graduating from “the old yellow school” in June 1966, Hills surprised his parents by enlisting in the Army. He volunteered to go to Vietnam, where he survived serving two tours from 1967 to 1969. During those intense years, he had the support of neighbors and friends who sent “care packages” that arrived bearing home-baked goods, John Deere umbrellas and even a four-leaf clover that returned home with him.

Following discharge from the Army, Hills was eventually employed by B. M. Clark Co. in sales and manufacturing of bulk feed units. In 1972 he married Lorna (Mitchell) of Appleton. Three years after their son, Justin, arrived, he made the decision to go on his own: he created the Don Hills Co. Inc. It was the only way he could see to be able to settle down in Union, raise his son and, hopefully, provide a good living for his family. What started out as a “leap of faith” in 1975 for him and Lorna sold 31 years later as a successful business, from which they retired on April Fool’s Day 2006, the release says.

Although running his hydraulic/fluid power business put a great demand on his time and energy, Hills stayed active as long as he could as a volunteer with the Union Fire Department and Union Ambulance Service. Many late nights have been spent away from home fighting fires, transporting the sick, or troubleshooting hydraulic problems; but he was always glad to be of help when needed. He even managed to coach farm team baseball and peewee basketball, with Lorna as his assistant, when Justin was learning the sports. Ice cream was usually the reward, whether they won or lost! And in between all this, he made sure his lawn and grounds were in pristine condition.

Hills served several years on the town Budget Committee until retirement. He replaced that with driving around the United States to explore its beauty and to reconnect with his Vietnam Army buddies. There are 11 other couples who live in 10 different states who have been meeting every two years for a reunion since 1996. Hills was proud to host them here in Union in 2002 – and made sure they knew the history of the Maine Wild Blueberry before they left. Volunteering to be on the Vietnam Memorial Committee was another way he felt he served his town and his country.

Those who knew Hills for years knew he could be a straight shooter, as well as an instigator, playing pranks on the unsuspecting. They also knew he would be among the first to lend serious aid to local organizations or individuals in need, according to the release.

Throughout his travels, Hills was always happiest to return home, where he said, “We have it all right here.” In a recent conversation, a professional was amazed to learn that he had lived his whole life in one place. He questioned why he had never moved. His answer: “Why leave paradise?”

The town thanked Hills' wife, Lorna, for the tribute to her husband and for sharing her memories of their life together. The release notes that Hills was proud of serving his country, thankful for his Union roots and living on the land of his ancestors, and that he took pride in Union and its townspeople.

Hills was referred to by many in the community as the “Mayah of Union,” the release says, noting that he lived a full life in Union, giving not only his time but also many “behind the scenes” contributions. It adds that he will be deeply missed.

The Union town report for this year was dedicated to Don Hills, a lifelong resident who died earlier this year.
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