It meant something special to be placed on Robert Hill's football team at North Commons Park. His kids were known for their sharp uniforms, sideline discipline and sportsmanship.
Notably unpretentious "Coach Bobby" kept his expectations high and his voice low. His teams played hard from an unwillingness to let him down.
Hill was born and raised in Minneapolis, emerging from early childhood tragedy a lifelong advocate for the development of young people and family reunification. He died on his 77th birthday, Feb. 23.
"He understood and knew how to work with kids, a lot of kids who didn't have a lot of parental support or good home situations," said fellow youth coach Greg Owens. "Bobby developed some very good athletes, but also he saved a ton of kids who otherwise wouldn't have had an opportunity."
Hill was the third youngest of 10 children in a devout Catholic family. Both parents died from illness within a year of each other when Hill was in elementary school.
An older sister raised him until high school, when he boarded at the famous Father Flanagan's Boys Town in Omaha. He was elected a "commissioner" of Boys Town's self-government and lettered in basketball before graduating in 1965, during the thick of the Vietnam War.
Hill was immediately drafted by the U.S. Army and stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. He received an honorable discharge three years later.
In 1970, Hill married Rosvlyn Ritchie. They were together 52 years, until the day he died.
"This is one of the hardest, heartbreaking and most challenging things I've had to experience in my lifetime," Rosvlyn said. "What a spiritual and kind individual he was. He was not only my spouse, but my friend, my son's father."
Hill worked at Clarus Inc., a machine shop now located in Fridley, for 12 years. He also served as a youth worker and community home supervisor for Catholic Charities' St. Joseph's Home for Children, a former orphanage that housed thousands of children in protective custody. After its closure in 2020, Hill drove a bus for Metro Transit. He belonged to the Martin J. Ruter Garage in Brooklyn Center and enjoyed meeting people from different walks of life.
Linda Tate, Hill's niece, remembers him as a grill master, a carpenter who created beautiful patio furniture and loved taking the family kids out fishing in his boat. There was always music playing in her aunt and uncle's house. Hill, a guitarist, loved Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Bob Marley, the Rolling Stones and John Coltrane.
"He'll just be so missed," said Tate. "He was just a wonderful uncle. Everything that you would expect an uncle to be."
Hill is survived by his wife Rosvlyn, son Noah Benjamin Hill, grandson Kyheem A. Jones-Hill, three great grandsons, brother David W. Hill and many other family and friends.