Friends and family of Raymond E. Hill, native and longtime resident of Summit County, will gather at the Father Dyer church in Breckenridge Saturday for a memorial service to celebrate his life. Although Hill lived in many locations throughout his life, Summit County always held a special place in his mind and is where his ashes will find their final resting place.
A Summit County family
Hill was born August 12, 1921, on the Mumford Ranch, 25 miles north of Dillon. His parents, Ray F. and Mildred D. (Mumford) Hill lived on the ranch, which now lies beneath the Green Mountain Reservoir. Photographs of the ranch show Raymond and his father hauling large loads of logs hitched up to horse teams.
Raymond’s father spent some of his time working for nearby mines, then later for the Public Roads Administration and Summit County Road & Bridge. He also owned the Dillon Garage, supervised at the Dillon dam construction site and served as Summit County Commissioner.
Raymond’s mother was a teacher and taught classes in a one-room schoolhouse at Slate Creek, in the lower Blue Valley north of Dillon.
As a teenager, Raymond contracted polio, which left him limited use of his left leg and arm. Although he missed a year of school, he was determined to overcome his disability, which he eventually did through hard work and exercise. He went on to become a skier and ski jumper in Steamboat Springs and graduated from Leadville High School in 1939.
“I remember stories about him riding to school on his horse for miles in the cold,” said his daughter, Ann Hill.
Raymond went on to receive a degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado in Boulder, after which he was invited to work for the Public Roads Administration as a draftsman and surveyor in Alaska, serving as a member of the first survey crew of the Alcan Highway.
“He had a lot of interesting stories on that job,” Ann recalled. “Everything from bear encounters to just incredible freezing temperatures.”
When World War II broke out, Raymond enlisted in the Army engineers, where he was sent to serve in the Pacific. He achieved the rank of Sergeant for the 545th Topo Company and was stationed on five different Pacific islands, including Okinawa and South Korea.
After the war ended, Raymond returned to Summit County.
A passion for the outdoors
Back in Summit County, Raymond split his time between working for his father at the Dillon Garage and courting his future wife, Marjorie Lois Lott. Through his work at the garage and driving snowplows, Raymond has plenty of heart-pounding stories about towing vehicles off Loveland Pass in blizzard conditions.
Raymond and Marjorie got married June 25, 1947, at the Father Dyer United Methodist church in Breckenridge.
Raymond then went to work as a cartographer for the United States Geological Survey for the next 35 years. This work took him all over the western states, from Colorado, Wyoming and Montana down to New Mexico and Texas, and occasionally Alaska.
Fortunately, it was work that Raymond loved. An avid hiker and backpacker, he was thrilled to spend his time in the outdoors, hauling around heavy packs of survey equipment.
His favorite assignment, he told his family, was the time he spent in Buena Vista the summer of 1954. With fellow surveyor Bruce Swartz and a string of packhorses, Raymond set out to survey Mt. Elbert — Colorado’s tallest peak — as well as the nearby peaks, including Massive, Harvard, Yale and Princeton.
While he was in that area, he took the liberty of naming several of the unnamed lakes, naming them after his wife, son and daughter. Ann recalls her favorite family backpacking trip as the one they took up to Lake Ann.
“It did snow on us,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a beautiful lake.”
Raymond’s wife shared his love of backpacking and the two of them summited 43 of Colorado’s 53 14,000-foot mountains. Ann and her brother were along for many of those.
“They started me backpacking and climbing 14ers when I was 9 years old,” she said.
Her parents were absolutely and without a doubt “mountain people,” so this type of thing was in their blood, and now she’s grateful for the memories.
“I was blessed to grow up in a family that was so involved in the outdoors,” she said.
Happy and outgoing
Raymond was a happy person, Ann said, “happy and talkative and always want(ing) to be involved.” This showed itself not only through his daily interactions but his hobbies as well. He was involved with the Toastmasters organization in Breckenridge, as well as the Masons. He and his wife were involved in a number of square dancing clubs throughout several states.
“They really enjoyed their square dancing and they were really good,” Ann said, remembering how she and her partner tried and failed to keep up with them.
Raymond was also a singer and an instrumentalist — trumpet in high school and harmonica as an adult.
“He was always singing in camp every morning,” Ann remembered, and during family trips he would wake everyone up by singing an Irish song, a tradition handed down from his father. In the evening he would play his harmonica by the campfire.
“So that was always traditional — singing in camp and the harmonica and the fires in the evening.”
Back in Summit County
Raymond and his wife retired to Dillon in 1986. In the years that followed, they traveled to many places together, from the Grand Canyon to trips to New Zealand, Brazil and China, among others.
In 2006 the pair moved to Grand Junction. They kept their property north of Dillon called Peaceful Point.
Raymond passed away December 26, 2012 in Grand Junction. He asked that his ashes be brought to Peaceful Point, which in the process of becoming a conservation easement.
Raymond also requested that his memorial service be given at Father Dyer church, where he married his wife.
“This is where he was born and raised,” Ann said, “and he specifically wanted his service at the same church where he (was) married.”
Friends and family members are coming in from all parts of the U.S. to take part in Saturday’s ceremony. Raymond is survived by his wife, daughter Ann and granddaughters Bridget Hill and Crystal Tan.