The Obit For Vern Hills

Vernon J. Hills

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer on 12/20/2009

Vernon J. Hills Marshall Vernon J. Hills, age 85, of Marshall, died Thursday night, December 17, 2009 at Oaklawn Hospital.

Vern was born August 17, 1924 in Albion. He came to Marshall as a child with his family and has made it his home ever since.

Vern attended Marshall Schools and was an accomplished athelete as a youngster and throughout his life. During high school Vern and his brother Dale tried out for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team at Bailey Park in Battle Creek. Dale got a contract to play ball that day and the only reason Vern did not was that he was too young. But Vern and his mother were invited to go to St. Louis for a week so that he could work out with the Cardinals! Later that year he became a member of the Cardinal's farm team and pitched for them.

His baseball career was cut short by WWII and a call to service with the U.S. Marine Corps. Vern entered the Marines July 7, 1943. He was trained as a Communications Specialist and served with A Company of the First Battalion 28th Regiment Fifth Division.

Vern participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima and witnessed the raising of the flag on Mt. Surabachi. Later he was part of the Marine Corps occupying force of Japan. Vern was honorably discharged on May 17, 1946. Vern returned to Marshall and completed his high school education that was interrupted by both pro baseball and WWII. He then attended Olivet College.

While attending Marshall High School Vern became acquainted with Olive G. Vance. When he returned from WWII, one evening he called Olive and asked her to go out. She "supposed she could" and the rest became history! Vern and Olive were married in Ft. Wayne, Indiana August 1, 1948 by Olive's uncle who was a minister.

Vern worked for Post Cereals in Battle Creek for 60 years. He started working there while in high school during the tenure of C.W. Post as a press operator to help support his family. After WWII he returned to Post, working his way up to become their Quality Control Manager.

His first retirement from Post was in January of 1989. General Foods asked him to come back to Post Cereals after trying other "options" to manage Quality Control. He did return to manage Quality Control for the next 13 years, retiring again in the mid 1990's.

Vern enjoyed sports. He was the pitcher for the Battle Creek All-Star Baseball Team and pitched against Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950 in a game in Battle Creek. Vern said he threw a fast ball "that was up around 90MPH." and a knuckle curve but claimed to have "lousy control".

He enjoyed golfing and bowling which he was also very accomplished at. Vern was a regular sight jogging in Marshall until his health prevented him from it. He was a member of Minges Hills Racquet Club where he enjoyed playing tennis. Table Tennis was another favorite sport and Vern fared well in several tournaments.

Vern was a Cub Scout Den Leader when son Sean was young. He was a ham radio operator and member of SMARS. He enjoyed working on televisions and earlier in life was a certified TV repairman running a business on the side out of his home while working for Post. Olive became tired of side stepping the numerous televisions dropped off for Vern to fix and that sideline became a thing of the past!

Vern's life was prioritized by his dedication to family first, with time with wife Olive and his sons and later grandchildren bringing him great joy. His enjoyment of athletics was another memorable and profoundly affecting part of his life.

Surviving are his wife, Olive; 3 sons, Vance J. (Jacqueline) Hills of Jackson, Forest W. (Kathryn) Hills of Dexter and Sean K. (Marissa) Hills of Chicago; 4 grandchildren, Joshua Hills, Amanda Arbuckle, Jilisa Bowen and Nathaniel Hills; and 4 great-grandchildren, Dominic Hills, Carter Arbuckle, Izabella Hills, and Avery Arbuckle.

He was preceded in death by his parents and 2 brothers Dale A. Hills and Forest E. "Babe" Hills.

Friends may call at the Craig K. Kempf Funeral Home and Cremation Services, 723 Old 27 North, on Monday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. where family will be present to greet friends and share memories from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. and 6 p.m.-8 p.m.

Services celebrating his life will be held at Craig K. Kempf Funeral Home on Tuesday at 11 a.m. with Rev. Roger James of Zion Lutheran Church officiating. A luncheon will follow in the Kempf Reception Hall at the funeral home. Committal services with military honors by the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard will be held at Oakridge Cemetery following the luncheon.

Friends who wish may make memorial contributions to the American Parkinson Disease Association or Oaklawn Hospital. Assistance available with memorials at Kempf Funeral Home.

To sign the on line guest register and leave a message for the family visit www.kempffuneralhome.com.