LAFAYETTE, La. - Colonel David Marlow Hill, born April 5, 1920, gave up the good fight early Saturday morning, Feb. 15, 2014. His last flight will take him to join his beloved wife, Frances Martin Hill, at Arlington National Cemetery. His legacy will be his love of family, friends, flying, animals and gardening.
Dave was born in LaJunta, Colo., to George Orville Hill and Denny Best Hill. His grandparents were ranchers on land they homesteaded when Colorado was a territory. To celebrate his birth, his grandmother bought him a cutting horse and he learned to ride before he could walk. As a youth, his ambition was to grow up to be a cowboy.
Growing up during the Dust Bowl and the Depression taught him the importance of saving money and investing in education. He was a charter member of his hometown's Koshare Indian Dancers, a Boy Scout Troop that performed native Indian dances throughout the United States, including the 1937 Boy Scout National Jamboree in Washington D.C. Dave often reminisced about President Franklin Roosevelt touring the Boy Scout camp in his open air limousine during this trip.
In 1939, Dave spent the summer abroad in Paris before starting his college Veterinarian program. On his return voyage from France, he narrowly escaped a German U-Boat (both the ships preceding and following his were scuttled). He never cared much for ships after that experience.
Dave enlisted in the U.S. Army
the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, and he quickly discovered his love for flying. Upon earning his pilot's wings, he was posted to India to fly supplies over the Himalayas ("The Hump") to China. This supply operation was one of the most dangerous ones that the U.S. Air Force
had undertaken - more than 600 airplanes and crews were lost in a two year period. He rarely spoke about The Hump, except to say that his initial "Check Ride" was one of the most harrowing experiences of his life. On one mission, he was able to evade a Japanese enemy aircraft but had to make an emergency landing in a remote Burma jungle.
Following the war, Dave went on a blind date with 1st Lieutenant Frances Martin while on post in Guam. Fran was a member of the original Army Air Corps Flight Nurses and had flown throughout the South Pacific transporting the wounded. Dave was immediately smitten, and a year later, they were married. At the time, nurses could not be married and remain in the military, so Fran left to begin her second career - raising five children.
Dave was recruited as a commercial pilot but decided to remain in the military, flying transports across the Pacific. He served in the Korean Conflict
, and in 1956, was selected as a faculty member of the Squadron Officer's School at Maxwell AFB in Alabama. Thereafter, he finally completed his bachelor's degree at Florida Southern University.
During the buildup to the Vietnam Conflict he flew missions into Vietnam and Cambodia, at times under enemy fire. Dave was promoted to the rank of full Colonel and served as a squadron commander at Tachikawa AFB in Japan. His final position was as the Commandant of ROTC at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. He happily served in this capacity until he retired in 1972 in Lafayette, La. By then he had accumulated a great deal of flying time -- over 12,000 hours.
Since retiring he devoted the majority of his time to his family; hunting, fishing and traveling. He used to say that traveling with Fran was like trying to stay on a wild bronco or trying to fly over the Hump. They traveled together to New Zealand, American Samoa, Europe, Costa Rica and every place in between. They also shared a second home at the old Colorado homestead of his childhood until Fran's death in 2001.
He enjoyed his last years surrounded by flowers and family in his Lafayette home. In 2013, he made a final trip to LaJunta for the 80th Anniversary of his beloved Koshares. He always said his experience with the Koshares marked his transition from a boy to a man and greatly contributed to his success and appreciation of art and culture.
Dave is survived by his five children, including Janelle and husband, Bill MacDermott, of Bangor. He is also survived by his 13 grandchildren including Drew MacDermott of Portland, Erin MacDermott of Vail, Colo., and Kate MacDermott of New Orleans.
He was predeceased by his loving wife, Fran, his parents, and his brothers, George Alexander Hill and James Orville Hill, as well as many other loved ones.
Please send any donations to the Koshare Indian Dancers of LaJunta Colorado or Literacy Volunteers of Bangor.