Mourners pack Christ Church to remember Rotarian Tony Hill

Tony Hill who died on December 20, aged 73 was a well known Rotarian, a keen supporter of Harrogate Rugby Club and a devoted family man.

Friday, 16th January 2015, 8:00 pm
Rotary Club of Harrogate President Tony Hill (left) with immediate past President John Simm (300608M3).

Almost 600 people attended his funeral at Christ Church in Harrogate which was conducted by the Rev Michael Wearing.

Tributes to Tony were given by his wife Gilli, daughter Sarah, brother Patrick and friend Charles Jesper.

Tony was the second eldest of ten children - six boys and four girls and spent his early years in Harlow Hill where, his younger brother Patrick recalls, “we had an idyllic, carefree childhood; our playgrounds were Birk Crag, the Pine Woods and the Valley Gardens and we roamed far and wide, climbing rocks and trees and risking life and limb in general.”

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The family moved to Ripon in the early 50’s and swapped the pine woods and crags for three rivers and a canal.

“There were not many occasions when at least one of us did not return home from our adventures bedraggled and soaking wet.

“I vividly remember one occasion when I fell through the ice on the canal and Tony hauled me out ...that’s what guardian angels and big brothers are for.”

Tony attended Ripon Grammar School where he excelled at sport; playing cricket and rugby for the first teams marked the beginning of his lifelong love of both of these games.

After a move back to Harrogate in 1956, Tony’s spirit of adventure continued to inspire and he persuaded his brother Patrick to join him to work to achieve the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

Tony’s skills and leadership enabled the brothers to attain the Gold award in 1959 when they were invited to Buckingham Palace to receive their awards in person from the Duke of Edinburgh. They were the first brothers ever to receive the awards.

“The experience has stood me in good stead all my life,” said Patrick.

“I count myself extremely fortunate to have had Tony as a brother, this is a sentiment I know shared by my brothers and sisters. Eldest brother David worked and lived away from home all his adult life and it was left to Tony to take on the role as head of the family, he readily took on this duty and could always be relied on to accept responsibility and to manage and organise family matters. We are all indebted and grateful to him for this.”

A Chartered Surveyor by profession, Tony was a partner at Jackson and Calvert before setting up his own practice and was held in high esteem by colleagues and clients alike. He was also a very well respected and active member of a number of community and charitable organisations including the Rugby Club, his Masonic Lodge, Round Table, the MG Club and Rotary. Tony’s friend and fellow Rotarian Charles Jesper recalls that “whatever organisation he became involved in, he gave total involvement. Any community service project, or social event he was the first to volunteer, whatever he undertook he did with total commitment and dedication.” 

Tony was a founder member of Nidderdale Round Table and quickly rose through the ranks to become its third chairman.

A lifelong rugby enthusiast and respected player in his earlier years, Tony was an active member and dedicated supporter of Harrogate Rugby Club, playing an important role in the club’s development over the years.

He was Almoner for his Masonic Lodge, a task he undertook with great dedication; less than two days before he died he found the strength to help organise cards and plants to be sent to the widows of Masons from his lodge.

Tony took an active role in a number of Rotary projects; as well as acting as Club President in 2008 and 2009. He supervised the building of flats at Steele Garth in Starbeck as part of the Flower Fund Homes project.

He also played a major role in the planting of the daffodils along Wetherby Road from Freemans corner to the town boundary and more recently took on the job of organising the collection, storage and refurbishment of over 1000 unwanted bicycles for re-use overseas, a task that took many hours of his time.

Charles recalled: “Whatever there was to do in Rotary he would be there, be it rattling a tin in the Victoria Centre or outside Morrisons, or visiting and caring for any of our Rotarian colleagues who were ill.

“Over the past 18 months or so as his illness began to seriously take its toll one could only marvel at his sheer determination and spirit to help others regardless of how he was feeling. 

“Only a couple of days before he was housebound he took the trouble to visit a fellow Rotarian who was poorly in hospital and touchingly, Tony had put his name on the list of Rotarian volunteers to collect Christmas trees for re-cycling early in the New Year.”

Family was everything to Tony who leaves his wife Gilli - the couple celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary last September - two daughters, Alison and Sarah, son-in laws Steve and Charley and three beloved grandchildren Barney, Stanley and Rita. 

Tony was very creative and was often to be found working on some project or other - making wooden shops for the grandchildren, customising bikes, boiling up a batch of jam, baking bread or even steeping sloes for the Christmas sloe gin.

Alison and Sarah paid tribute to their father.

“He was the best dad anyone could wish for, he had a great sense of fun and mischief; he was always full of surprises and loved putting a little bit of magic into the everyday and making it special.

“Dad had time for everyone, he was interested in everyone; he listened to their ideas and supported them with their plans, he wasn’t afraid of taking a risk and was always the trusted voice of reason who could solve any problem.

“He made everyone feel special with his generosity of spirit and his amazing hospitality. His compassion for others and his integrity and honesty touched everyone he knew.”

Gilli’s simple tribute summed up the thoughts of many.

“We travelled through life and the world together; we have lost a man in a million.”

The Hill family