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Bruce Willard Hills was born on July 22, 1935, in Oak Park, Illinois. He was one of four sons born to Francis Willard “Bill” Hills and Deana Flo Smith. Bruce spent his early years near grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. He loved trips into downtown Chicago on the EL trains with his Grandpa Smith, to see museums, movies, or just to travel on the train.
When Bruce was about six, the family moved to Moline, Illinois because his dad got a marketing job at John Deere.
Bruce grew up during World War II when patriotism prevailed throughout America. As a young boy, he organized his friends to collect wagonloads of old newspapers which were hauled to his garage to be sold. The money went to the war effort.
Bruce had interesting experiences as he grew up. He earned a certificate for swimming a mile in the Mississippi River. He and a group of boys went with a guide on a boat trip exploring part of the Mississippi. When Bruce and some friends were about 16 years old, they pooled their money, bought a used “woodie” car, and took off for Alaska. They had many adventures, seeing the sights, losing count of the number of tire blowouts, and driving on the very old Alcan highway. From Alaska they drove down the west coast into Mexico.
At age 19 he enlisted in the Army. He served in the occupation forces in post-war Germany. He learned a lot in his service, and he was grateful that the Army paid for much of his education.
Bruce started working for the city newspaper while he was still in high school. He was a teenage sportswriter for the Davenport Democrat. Later, he worked for the Chicago Sun-Times covering the Evanston, Illinois area. This is where he met his future wife Judith Robertson who was attending Northwestern University studying journalism. She worked as a waitress where Bruce ate his dinner.
Bruce studied math and philosophy and graduated from Augustana College. Bruce received a master’s degree in experimental psychology from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Then he moved to Purdue University and spent time working toward a PhD. Soon, practicality called, and he left to earn his living. He turned to journalism, which came naturally to him. He became an ad man in Cleveland, Ohio, an editor in Indiana, a managing editor in Illinois, and then moved west to Salt Lake City and eventually worked at the Deseret News. At this point they had four children: Kurt, Eric, Ann, and Mark.
Utah was a special place where Bruce could explore and enjoy camping, hunting, and fishing. He was part of the Lion’s Club service organization. He enjoyed preparing for their annual Turkey Shoot. He was also President of Bountiful Bonnet Ball, a girls softball league when Ann was playing.
Bruce met a family who changed his life. They introduced him to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They taught him the lessons, led him to baptism, and in time took the Hills family to the temple. Later, Bruce and Judith were stake missionaries, and all four children served as missionaries around the world.
Bruce’s first job at the Deseret News was as “general reporter.” He was able to write stories that interested him. He later became the farm editor and traveled around the state interviewing farmers and ranchers. He was an award-winning farm editor. He said, “Everyone has a story.” He made people feel comfortable and they were willing to open up to him. Bruce was able to tell the stories they wanted told. He also wrote about hunting and the outdoors. Bruce realized that taking his own photographs for the newspaper would be helpful to him. He took night classes to refine his camera skills, which proved to be effective and efficient. Ever the reporter, he always had a black felt tip pen and notecards in his pocket.
In 1975 Bruce joined the Air Force Reserves as a part-time job. He was a police officer and a packaging engineer securing supplies in crates they built. He managed the Hill Air Force Base Public Affairs office, putting out a base newspaper every month. He was a reservist for 20 years!
After retiring from the Deseret News, he became active duty at Hill Air Force Base since younger soldiers needed to serve in Desert Storm. He was in great physical health. He worked as a North Salt Lake City EMT. Later he worked as a security guard at the Utah State Capitol building.
Bruce had a variety of interests including photography, hunting, exploring old towns, making sterling silver jewelry, and promoting preparedness and survival skills. He liked listening to classical music and he had an incredible memory of places and events in history. He was a voracious reader of all kinds of genres throughout his life, but he especially liked cowboy fiction (actually, anything with shootouts). In his 80s, his eyes began to fail with macular degeneration. He had to rely on his marvelous memory of the stories he read and the many movies he saw.
Bruce was interested in the lives of his children and grandchildren. He had nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Bruce passed away on January 26, 2023, at the age of 87. At his passing, he was surrounded by his family at Barton Creek Assisted Living. We imagine there was a great reunion at that time with Bruce and his son, Mark, who passed away in 2003.
We want to sincerely thank the Barton Creek directors, receptionist, staff, and all others that provided Bruce with kind care and support, and good communication to us. We appreciate Utah Home Health and Hospice for their medical expertise and friendship in keeping Bruce as healthy as possible and managing his needs.
We are grateful for the love and support we have received from neighbors and friends.
We thank Lindquist’s Bountiful Mortuary for the kind and professional way they helped us plan a meaningful “celebration of life” for Bruce and our family.
A private family memorial will be held for Bruce. He will receive military honors at the Bountiful Cemetery for his service in the Air Force.
Condolences may be shared at www.lindquistmortuary.com
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