For several years, Mildred Mae Hill was a teacher.
But her most cherished accomplishment may have been serving as the thread pulling together several generations of her family. Whether raising her four children, doting on her two grandchildren or chronicling in poems and prose her family's history from the time of the Civil War to today, Hill spent many years breathing life into chapter after chapter of family recollections and stories, her daughter Lesley Heil said.
"She was a good writer and wrote a lot of stories for her grandchildren in her 'Grandma Book' — about her growing-up years," Heil said. "Her great-grandparents settled in Blue Earth County right around the Civil War and families stayed in that area for several generations. There was a cemetery across the road, filled with family names. So she wrote about these folks."
Hill died Jan. 1 of COVID-19 at age 93. She was born Mildred Covey on Aug. 3, 1927, in Sterling Township in rural Blue Earth County. A graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, she taught high school English in Lakefield and Ceylon, Minn. She later worked as a substitute teacher in Frost, Elmore and Blue Earth, Minn. Still, after marrying Reuben Hill and having children, her focus turned more than ever to family.
"She came from a family of teachers, and education was really important to her," Heil said. "But her family was what was really important to her."
Hill was close to her five siblings and spent much time with them. She and her husband traveled, and she was an active member of the communities where she lived over the years, volunteering at church and for other organizations. But this daughter of a poet truly reveled in storytelling.
Whether sharing tales handed down from her grandparents' farm or evocatively describing a field of wheat, her nanny goat or pet dogs and cats, Hill wrote much of it down. Years later, after Hill began suffering from dementia, her daughter Heil rewrote many of those stories to read them back to her.
"She loved hearing those stories. Her eyes would just light up," Heil said. "She had a modest life. But it was a good life, because she enjoyed her family."
In addition to her daughter Lesley Heil of Roseville, other survivors include daughter Carol Hill of Chaska, son Eric Hill of St. Paul, two grandchildren and many nieces, nephews and friends.
Services have been held.
James Walsh • 612-673-7428