Friends remember longtime Littleton community watchdog

Jerry Hill's would-be 85th birthday commemorated

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If Frank Atwood could use one word to describe Jerry Hill, it would be “indefectible.”

A fierce yet friendly watchdog for the community, Hill always had a finger on the pulse of Littleton, sitting on local boards and commissions and rarely missing a public city council meeting.

On Sept. 21, friends of Hill gathered outside his former home in Geneva Village near downtown Littleton on what would have been his 85th birthday. Hill passed away on Feb. 24 after a short illness.

Standing beside a verdant linden tree as the late afternoon sun seeped through its branches, Atwood joined with a host of residents, city officials and friends to remember Hill as a pillar of their community.

“I just feel that Jerry was a friend to all of us,” Atwood said, speaking to the crowd. “He quietly accomplished miracles.”

Hill's legacy can be felt throughout the city.

He played an integral role in ensuring the 54,000-square-foot Douglas H. Buck Community Recreation Center continued to serve older residents after it replaced a senior center in 2005.

Hill was also a staunch advocate for the preservation of Geneva Village, a city-owned senior housing complex that offers rent-restricted affordable housing. For years, residents have faced uncertainty as the city mulled the complex's future, with suggestions ranging from raising rent to selling the site as officials claimed it was burdening the city budget. In December, Geneva Village was rezoned by the city for mixed use development, though it has yet to fill several vacancies. Residents have raised concerns that this move signals the city's intention to sell the complex and that they may face displacement.

Hill was regularly in talks with city councilmembers, pushing them to protect the living center, where he also lived, and its dozens of low-income elderly residents. Several residents on Sept. 21 remembered Hill as someone who was “a friend to all of us.”

One resident, who did not wish to be named, said Hill would arrive some days with food from one of his favorite restaurants, McDonald's, and give it out to neighbors.

“(He was a) very kind, generous man and on a mission, and my hat goes off to him for that,” she said.

Hill was born in Michigan in 1936 and spent his young adult life in the Air Force, at one time having to guard Mamie Eisenhower during her shopping trips in Denver while her husband, President Dwight Eisenhower, was hospitalized following a heart attack.

In the 1960s, Hill spent time in New York working in advertising before joining a financial firm. When the firm opened an office in the Denver metro area, Hill moved to Littleton and dug himself into city affairs.

Atwood said Hill's passing represents a loss for the community's voice.

“Good democracy requires eternal vigilance, and he was vigilant,” Atwood said.

The large linden tree outside Hill's former home will bear the number 78, which will match the number on a plaque dedicated to Hill that will be placed inside the Littleton Center.

On the plaque, it reads “with appreciation for your persistent dedicated service to our town friend. You are missed.”

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