Hillside Fellowship pastor retires after 16 years

Hillside Fellowship Pastor Dick Hill will retire after he delivers his final sermon Sunday.

He and his wife, Sharon, came to Sweet Home 16 years ago from Salem.

“I thought I came here for a year,” Hill said. At the time, the church was struggling. The church’s conference, the Free Methodists of Oregon, didn’t expect it to survive.

“They wanted us to get it going, but their theory was basically, it’s not going to make it,” Hill said, but the church had potential.

“We stayed, and we enjoyed it, and we got involved in the community,” Hill said.

Hill served some eight years on the City Council, resigning about two years ago. He served on the Sweet Home Emergency Ministries Board of Directors for about 10 years. He spent about nine years as president of the board. He has been a Kiwanis member since coming to Sweet Home.

He had previously been in the Rotary Club and the Kiwanis club elsewhere.

Hill graduated from the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, Calif., in 1978. While attending, he pastored a Hispanic church for three years. After graduation, the Hills moved to Canada where they planted churches. Later, he took a church in West Salem.

Before the entering the ministry, he was a journeyman cable splicer for the phone company in Chicago. He also was a salesman and manager at furniture stores in Illinois, where he grew up.

Sharon Hill was born in Nebraska, but her family moved around because her father was in the military. She met Dick Hill in California at an Elvis Presley matinee while he was serving in the Air Force.

They have four children and eight grandchildren. Two of their children live in Salem.

“That’s one of the reasons we’re moving back to Salem,” Hill said. “It just made sense to move back there.”

Sharon Hill retired last year from Lebanon School District after working special education for 33 years.

“I think the hardest thing right now is retiring, just knowing it’s all drawing to an end,” Hill said. “It’s going to be hard leaving Sweet Home. Tim (McQueary) and I both resigned the same night on the City Council. We kept our friendship.”

Neither of them was aware the other was resigning that night, Hill added.

“There’s a lot of neat people in this town,” Hill said, adding that they’ll miss their church family and the smallness of the community.

Outside of Sweet Home, “you hear a lot of negative things,” Hill said. People say, “You don’t want to move there.”

“Once you get here and meet the people, it’s a loving community,” he said. If there is a need, it’s going to be met. When SHEM is in need, the people of the Sweet Home community step up, and SHEM receives food like crazy.

The Hills plan to return to visit Sweet Home.

“We’re coming back to the Jamboree to help,” Sharon Hill said.

Dick Hill sells water during the three-day music and camping festival, held the first weekend of August.

“I have always had fun doing that,” he said.

They also will come back to help with Vacation Bible School, and Hill expects to fill in for the new pastor, Matt Coleman of Salem, when he needs time off.

The church is planning a celebration and potluck Sunday morning to honor Hill.