Roger G. Hill, 82
Roger Gettys Hill, entrepreneur, engineer,
inventor, adventurer, sailor, astronomer, gentleman, beloved husband,
father and grandfather, died on Sept. 23, 2008, at Northwestern Memorial
Hospital, Chicago. He was 82 years old.
He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer nearly two years ago, and fared
well with treatment, to the point that two days before his death he walked
hospital corridors on his own and joked with caregivers. But his immune
system was greatly diminished, so that, virtually overnight, a virulent
virus took away his vital functions.
He died surrounded by his family, including
his wife and business partner of nearly 60 years, Emily Jonas Hill;
daughter and opera singer Wendy Hill; son and CEO of Gettys, a global
hospitality design and development company, Roger G. Hill II, and his
wife, also in the hospitality industry, Eva Wassermann Hill.
Mr. Hill was born in Manistee, Mich. and raised in Woodstock, Ill. He
attended the Todd School for Boys and later served as the headmaster
He attended Brown University, B.S., 1949, and Northwestern University,
M.S. in Physics, 1956.
While in university, he expressed his lifelong commitment to social
justice by founding the Lincoln Society, with membership open to all races
In 1959, Mr. Hill, a professional engineer, founded and was the president
of Gettys Manufacturing Company in Racine.
Gettys revolutionized the metal cutting
machine tool business worldwide in the 1960s, shifting the industry from
primitive AC electrical drive systems to DC servo drives and electronic
controls. These were the forerunners of todayís CNC machines.
In less than 20 years, Gettys had manufacturing plants in the U.S., Europe
and a licensing partner in Japan. The company was purchased in 1981.
In the late 1980s Mr. and Mrs. Hill purchased a controlling interest in
Hydro Electronic Devices (HED), Hartford, a designer and manufacturer of
electronic controls for mobile hydraulic equipment. Mr. Hill believed HED
would replicate the success Gettys enjoyed, but this time in the mobile
Mr. Hill had the entrepreneurís ability to inspire a talented group of
individuals though his vision, confidence and personal dedication.
Mr. Hill was elected "Wisconsin Small Business Man of the Year"
(1978) and, with Emily J. Hill, the Arthur Young/ Venture Magazine
"Entrepreneur of the Year" (1987).
He served on several White House councils, was a 32nd Degree Mason, and
took leadership roles in many civic and business organizations.
Mr. Hill was the antithesis of a Luddite, embracing all the latest
innovative technologies especially his computer, which kept him in touch
with daily news and world developments. Upon discovering the iPod, his
joys were listening to his musical favorites and podcasts.
He was the David Niven of Wisconsin business, dressing in Paul Stuart
suits and colorful bow ties.
He enjoyed theater, opera, American musicals, jazz and the American
He had a bold, infectious laugh; he enjoyed life right to the end.
Mr. Hill is survived by his wife of 59 years, the former Emily Jonas; his
daughter Wendy Hill of New York, and son Roger (Eva) G. Hill II of
Chicago; and grandchildren, Getty, Robert, and Madelyn. He leaves two
sisters, Bette Robinson of Milwaukee and Joanne Styles of Whitewater. Mr.
Hill is lovingly remembered by three nieces, three nephews, other
relatives and numerous friends.
The Hill family extends heartfelt gratitude to all family and friends for
their love and support during this time of loss.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts for prostate cancer research in memory
of Roger Hill can be made on-line at http://foundation.nmh.org/RogerHillMemorial
or sent to: Northwestern Memorial Foundation, 676 N. Saint Clair St.,
Suite 2050, Chicago, IL 60611.