Unique family celebrates doctorate graduation of member Joseph Hill
Imagine the difficulties of living in a family of six in which only the father had full hearing. Then imagine that family overcoming tremendous social challenges as a happy, supportive and successful family, providing a model that could benefit many other families that do not have those challenges.
George and Etta Hill of Bond Hill and their children are just that family. George Hill is the only member of the family with full hearing. Etta Hill began losing her hearing progressively with the birth of each of their four children. The four children – Alta Marie, 47, Anthony, 45, Joseph, 32, and Gregory, who died at the age of 31 – were born with hearing losses.
Etta Hill said she began sensing a ringing in her ears and losing some of her hearing when she became pregnant with her first child. Her condition was diagnosed as resulting from a deadening of the nerves in her ears, she said. The hearing loss became more serious with the birth of each child to the point that she can hear only low sounds today. All of the children were born with congenital hearing losses that range from serious to profound. Strangely, Mrs. Hill's five brothers did not experience hearing losses. Mrs. Hill’s daughter, Alta Marie, and son, Anthony, are both married with children who have no hearing problems.
All of the Hill children are achievers because they were raised by a mother and father who were determined to support them in any way so they could become successful, said Nan Mc- Donald, a retired teacher of the deaf and hardof hearing who taught two of the Hill children, Gregory and Joseph.
'' McDonald said. “Mr. Hill is an admirable father with a wife who has been committed to helping their children achieve their goals. They were always together with their children and among the most supportive parents I have ever known. They attended everything concerning their children.''
The parents were involved with all facets of their children’s lives. Their support of their children has had the following results: l Alta Marie is employed by the Internal Revenue Service and a graduate of the computer program at the National Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, N.Y. l Anthony is a mechanic in Columbus and a graduate of Sinclair College in Dayton. l Gregory was an electrical engineer at the time of his death. He was a graduate of ITT in Chicago. l And Joseph (Joe) has a degree in systems analysis from Miami University, a Master’s Degree in American Sign Language linguistics from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and a doctorate in linguistics from the same world famous university for the deaf received in May. He received a 3-year graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation for his masters and doctoral studies in linguistics at Gallaudet. He was recently employed as an assistant professor in the Department of Specialized Education Services at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro.
Their mother Etta Hill said she began withdrawing as her hearing became more difficult, and her children noticed it. She then decided to become more outgoing so her children would develop a positive attitude about being with other people. “I missed a whole lot, but I still got out and about with them. I still miss a lot, but I still got out and about with them. I still miss a lot, but I accept it now, and I am grateful for our lives,'' she said.
The Hill family also said, adding, “It was rough, because our fam ily was different. I had to keep my children close to me, for they often were not accepted. We looked for recreation programs and other programs where they could feel comfortable.’’
Mrs. Hill said she has great love and admiration for her husband George, a retired mechanic who lived his married life in a house with four children and a wife as the only family member who could hear. The only sign he would make was, “I love you.''
“It takes a dedicated husband and father who would stay with his family members who have hearing losses,'' said teacher McDonald, who also is a friend and neighbor of the Hills.
Etta Hill added, “Many of the parents of kids where my kids went to school were divorced because one of their parents could not hear.'' The father George Hill said, “Any father should want to do the best he can for his family regardless of the circumstances.’’ He said he is very proud of the achievements his wife and children have made.
The Special Education Department at CPS used oral/aural language training. The Hill children were enrolled in and graduated from Cincinnati Public Schools. They later learned sign language.
McDonald said the Hills made sure their children were exposed to people who talked. She added that children like Joseph, who have good use of hearing aids and can lip read, can be taught to clearly express themselves in a conversation.
Joseph Hill went through school as an A-student and became a member of the National Honor Society. He delivered a speech at his graduation ceremony at Miami University, which he attended with financial assistance from the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation in Ohio.
“I appreciate having my family and teachers' support all through my life as I deal with the challenges in life,” Dr. Joseph Hill said. “People would think that I would have a hardest life as a deaf person, especially as a Black and deaf male, but I think everyone has his own challenges regardless of his hearing.” Dr. Joseph Hill is a total communicator who uses speech and sign language. He was recently teaching in Italy, a country he has been to five times to study and teach, once under a Fulbright Award. “This is how I learned two languages in addition to English and American Sign Language: Italian and Italian Sign Language. All four are completely different from each other,’’ he said. “What keep me going are my family and teachers' confidence in me, their encouragement to me to achieve far and beyond, my parents' love for me, and my knowledge that there are deaf people like me out there who are doing anything and everything except hear,” Dr. Hill said. “My mother always like to remind me of what I said when I was little. I said, ‘I will do my best.’ I am still saying that now.”