Honoured by Lorene J. Kroger
Gerald and Charlotte Hill
Inspiration comes with many facets – and for our family it came from the resilience, strength, realistic optimism of our parents who turned the challenging realities of wars, illness, and meager times into rich full, happy carefree times for my brothers and I.
My Dad, Gerald (May 22 1892 to March 11, 1960) was a proud Canadian veteran of World War 1 who fought in the front lines of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. With a bullet through his foot, Dad crawled out of the trenches and back through the lines to medics. He spent a year in a Paris hospital surviving several gangrene induced amputations and the rehabilitation that followed. At home he didn’t talk much about the war but he did enjoy the comradery of the annual Vimy Ridge banquets in Toronto. He proudly wore the triangular pin of the Vimy vets on his lapel.
My mom, Charlotte Annie (Fryer) was born in England. (January 17, 1901 to December 3, 1990) She carried the strength of her British heritage with her to Canada. It was with this stoic strength and stiff upper lip that she raised us and managed the family. She took on many tasks that Dad could not do easily, due to the loss of his leg.
Dad took on the job of Fire Ranger when they first arrived in North Bay (circa 1920). Because he was a veteran, he was given the job of General Delivery postal clerk at the old post office on Main Street, now gone.
Whether it was shoveling coal or wood for the fire, rubbing my Dad’s shoulders which ached from the straps that secured his artificial leg, or sewing clothes for my brothers and I, Mom was a tower of strength. When my brother Jack contracted polio at the age of 11 months, mom began to buy and sell land to supplement Dad’s wages to raise the money needed for Jack’s medical care, special boots, steel braces, and the many trips to Victoria Hospital (Sick Kids) in Toronto. We would also sell vegetables from our garden and I would go door to door, selling the crafts Dad made to help with the expense. As Jack grew older, doctors recommended a climate change so Mom, Jack and Gerry spent two years in Florida.
Never did I hear my parents complain about their lives. They were honest, law abiding, frugal, loving and instilled in all of us a strong work ethic and the importance of education. They were forged from two world wars and the Great Depression and these values imparted in us a zest for life, compassion and love of all living things.
Dad was a pronounced lover of animals, “Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t love animals,” he often said. We always had cats, dogs and sometimes turtles and goldfish. On Grandad’s farm animals were also well loved.
Our family always ate three full meals a day together. We sat at the small kitchen table with the huge world map on the wall at the table’s end. Dad opened the world of geography with many questions and queries at each meal. We had many laughter filled debates and challenges with each meal and much was learned about the world, life and each other. We all learned the rivers, countries and capitals which helped a great deal when we went to school.
Dad was happy, outgoing and uplifting in nature; virtues that shone during his 33 years as General Delivery clerk at the Main St. Post Office. The population of The Bay in the ‘50’s was around 18,000 and it seemed as though Dad knew a great many of them!
My brothers and I were fortunate to be raised in such an inspiring family. Gerry, a veteran of WWII, went on to establish a very successful photography business in North Bay called “Hill Bros. Photography”. Brother Jack was the other half of that operation. Many weddings were recorded with Hill Bros photographs in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Gerry’s thriving business ended with his untimely death in 1965 at the age of 42. Having graduated magna cum laude from Laurentian University (Nipissing Campus) with a History Degree and then an M.Ed. in History and Philosophy from University of Toronto, I had fulfilled goals my father had wished for me. I retired from my teaching career in 1992.
Throughout our lives, Dad would quote from the works of Shakespeare, Service, Poe, Kipling, Longfellow, and other poets to inspire and instill life’s lessons. One of his favourites was “IF” by Rudyard Kipling. It was a model lesson for all of us to follow in life’s adventures.
Lorene June Kroger (nee Hill) June 10, 1936
Gerald Albert Hill October 28, 1922 to March 1965
Jack Hugh Hill September 14, 1925 to March 2006