Mary Hill, 87

Advocate for Illinois senior citizens

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Mary Ivalyn Carter Bowden Hill, 87, of Dowling Park, Florida, died on Aug. 14, 2019. Born on March 6, 1932 in Waycross, Georgia to the late Ivy and Mary Carter (nee Strickland) during the Great Depression, she endured the passing of her mother, an event that contributed to her lifelong empathy for others. She also learned quickly the value of hard work, helping manage her father's general store, working the Bell Telephone Company switchboard, and rolling the final wrapping onto King Edward cigars. 

She spent many a summer enjoying Camp Suwannee at Advent Christian Village in Dowling Park on the banks of the Suwannee River. After early high school graduation, Mary ventured north to Aurora College, an Advent Christian school of higher learning in Aurora. Marriage and a flurry of children interrupted college until she moved with her Bowden family to Peoria, where she earned her bachelor's degree in sociology at Bradley University in 1971, while working and raising five beautiful children. 

She began her professional life in the service of others in need, teaching home-making and money-management skills to young mothers in Peoria's Urban Living Renewal Project. Eventually she found her true calling in the care and support of senior citizens, joining the Illinois Department on Aging. With her intelligence, creativity, and well-grounded work ethic, she rose through the ranks, becoming chief of the Bureau of Field Operations for the department's Division of Long-Term Care. 

In 1979 she experienced her crowning achievement, developing and establishing the Illinois Department on Aging's Community Care Program to help senior citizens remain in their own homes by providing in-home and community-based services. She was successful in promoting the benefits of this innovative program. She then oversaw its implementation and nurtured the initiative, which to this day assists seniors in maintaining their independence while providing cost-effective alternatives to nursing home placement. 

For several decades she traveled across Illinois to train senior center staff on Community Care Program implementation and management, and to overcome the challenges of providing high-quality care to the elderly. She boasted that she knew "all the pig-trails in Illinois" and was beloved among provider organizations and homecare aides for her tenacity in advocating with state officials for proper funding and other resources. 

The Illinois Association of Community Care Program Homecare Providers recognized her by establishing the Mary I. Hill Award, a remarkable testament to her legacy. In retirement, she returned to her roots at Advent Christian Village in Dowling Park, Florida. She kept busy, volunteering as manager of the Twice Nice resale shop in the Village Commons, helping to generate proceeds in support of the Advent Christian Village Benevolent Fund. She enjoyed reading, cultivating her wondrous backyard garden, actively participating in the church community, taking advantage of hydrotherapy at the village's Copland Center, chasing sunsets, cooking southern specialties, and traveling Florida coastlines and the world. She tended to others, visiting and comforting seniors in the manner of her career path. One of her favorite songs was "I Just Love Old People." Her family will remember her most for her generosity and endearing love, and for being a strong woman who overcame early life challenges to become an accomplished professional who cared for others regardless of race, color, creed, gender, station in life … or age. 

Mary Hill is survived by children, Mary Ricketson, Marsha Buckley, Michele (Jim) Haptonstahl, Michael Bowden and Melinda (Jeff) Selke; 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; her brothers, Edward and Tommy Carter; and an extended family of cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and innumerable others for whom she was like family. She was preceded in death by seven Carter brothers, Avant, Sylvanis, Arliss, Felice, Buford, Wylie, and Curtis; and her step-mother, Vera (Lewis) Carter. 

Mary was a resident of the Oak Park Arms in 2017-2018, and her family wishes to express its deep appreciation to the staff for their loving care. 

Per her wishes, a service celebrating her life with burial of her ashes next to her father's and mother's graves will take place on a date to be determined, at the Mars Hill Church Cemetery in Hoboken, Georgia. A memorial service was held at the Advent Christian Village Church in Dowling Park, Florida on August 17. 

The family appreciates donations in her memory to the International Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva Association (IFOPA), to honor Mary's great-granddaughter, Raina Halford, who has FOP and to fund research to find a cure, at www.ifopa.org. Donations can also be made to the Advent Christian Village Benevolent Fund, P.O. Box 4305, Dowling Park, Florida, 32064, www.acvillage.networkforgood.com. 

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Jim Haptonstahl from Oak Park  

Posted: August 21st, 2019 9:08 AM

Mary I Hill was truly a champion for senior citizens and for so many others deserving of community support, in Oak Park, River Forest, across Illinois... everywhere. And her legacy of service will live on, in her family, her friends, and the systems of care she developed and nurtured.

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