Dr. Donal Hill was recently recognized for his 40-ish years of service to the Fairfield school district, most specifically the football team.
“It’s actually only 39 years, so I’ll have to come back next year and do some volunteer work,” said Doc Hill with a laugh.
The early years
Hill went to school in Libertyville until his dad left the farm and he transferred to FCSD where he graduated in 1972.
Both of his parents worked at the school as custodians after moving to town.
“My dad had a high school education and my mother had a one-year teaching degree from Parsons, but after getting married and starting a family she became a full-time helper on the farm,” explained Doc. “When the farm economy got tough, my mother started cleaning houses and had several customers before working for the school district with my father.”
After high school, Hill went on to Iowa Western college and was a chemistry major/premed and played sports and met wife.
“I have no regrets on my profession or the avenues it’s allowed me to enjoy within the community,” said Hill. “In college, I played baseball and did two years of wrestling and the older I get, the better I was. It was fun to play those sports, but I never dreamed of playing professionally. I always knew I wanted to study some form of medicine, and by the time I was a sophomore in college, I knew I wanted to go to medical school.”
His wife Mary and he finished their educations in Des Moines and started working before moving back to Fairfield in 1980.
“I had several offers to go other places, but my wife grew up in a military family and moved a lot before her father retired to Iowa. She was aware of this part of the state, so we picked Fairfield and have had no regrets.”
Hill credits Mary, a school nurse for 25 years who retired from the district last June, as one of his strongest advocates for “taking care of the kids of the community and the volunteer services with the school.”
Let Hill do it
“I started out with the football program because the primary physicians of the community would rotate and I started filling in for people when it wasn’t my turn or I’d be in the crowd and someone would get injured and I’d run down so it just transitioned into me being on the sidelines for all the games, home and away. I don’t want to discount the service the other doctors gave because as children grow up and etc. they weren’t attending games as much and with my wife being the school nurse and me being a local boy who grew up and ran through that tunnel, I wanted to be at all of the home and away games and I haven’t regretted it for one second over the years.”
Hill says that his wife will vouch for his Trojan fandom.
“When we first got married, I would call her on Friday morning and ask her, ‘Do you know what today is? It’s Trojan football day!”
They always made it to all of the games and Hill said he has “such a passion for working with these young individuals. Not just the football players, but the cheerleaders, the volleyball players, wrestling. We hear about so many bad things going on in this world, but when you deal with these kids, we have really been blessed and it’s been an honor to work with my kids. I call them my boys and that is how I feel about them. They treat me with a lot of respect like I’m a family member and many of them years later still come up to me and say they feel like I’m part of their family.”
Kids come home
Doc Hill has two biological daughters who left for college but have since returned to the area. Heather Buckley is a Principal at Cardinal and has a daughter Isabella with her husband Sam. Holly is an executive at the hospital and is married to Charles St. John and has a son Kingston.
“I want to put a side comment on the coaching staff. So much of coaching is thought to be calling plays or yelling at the kids and I saw so much mentoring in every sport at Fairfield,” added Hill. “They give these kids lessons about life and how to treat one another. If you talk to past athletes, you will hear the same thing. I grew up in the Pearl Smith era, and I still remember mentoring from them growing up.”
Beating the big team from St. Louis that looked enormous after having the game ball delivered by helicopter. Also, beating a highly-ranked Mt. Pleasant team on a Todd Evans plunge to win the game.
“I also saw a lot of courage from players who played hurt, knowing they couldn’t be injured more, but had lots of pain,” admired the community leader.
“It’s been a great ride from walking out that tunnel in eighth grade to hearing the players do their pre-game now and it still gives me a rush before they go on the field. I have sad feelings knowing that this is probably my last year, but I’ve learned it’s not a place to be when you are 65-years old, trying to get out of the way. It’s also difficult for me to get down on the ground and see the players face and so it’s time for me to move on and let the next generation take over.”
Kind words from his colleagues
Activities Director Jeff Courtright
“Doc Hill has been a huge part of the Fairfield community for a number of years and he’s benefitted our school in numerous ways.”
“He travels with the team and having that medical expertise there, while they never hope to use him, it’s a luxury having such an outstanding medical doctor right there on our sidelines that can get to a kid right away and give them the treatment they need.”
“He’s sacrificed a lot to be there every single Friday for 40 years and he’s never once charged the school, he’s always volunteered it and some schools have to pay for that service. He just cares so much about our schools, the kids and our community and we wanted to take some time to recognize him just in case this ends up being his last season.”
“He played for me in high school and was a good baseball player, too. He has always been interested in sports and when the rotation with the doctors association fizzled, he took it on himself and it was really a blessing for not only the coaches, but for the players and parents to have a doctor on the field.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that Hill’s interest was always in the student-athlete and whether the football player was going to be safe. That allowed me to know that if he gave permission, everything would be OK.”
“You always question. I’ve had players over the years that are hurt and they want to go back in and you can’t let them, so it’s nice to have a doctor there to say no it’s not in your best interest and I had that faith in Doc Hill.”
“Everyone has faith in his knowledge and background and I was delighted in being a part of honoring this man that has done so much, not only for the football team, but for all of the athletic programs at the high school and that is a lot of Friday nights.
“When I first became football coach in 1989, Doc had already been on the sideline for several years while I was an assistant coach and I kind of inherited his expertise on the sideline. Through the years I can’t mention how many times his service has been called upon to make a decision about whether one of our young men should be on the field and deciding if he’s hurt or injured. Obviously, that takes a lot of pressure off of the head coach, because we don’t want to put a kid at risk and put them back in when he shouldn’t be.”
“He also shows up to practice to evaluate kids and see how their injuries are progressing and give them an update and throughout those years he’s never charged us a dime for any of that. His service has always been voluntary and complimentary and he’s always helped our athletes when they have sought him out.”
“We’ve developed a very strong bond over the years and I can say that he is my best friend today and it’s been a friendship that I’ve been very blessed with.”
“Doc Hill has volunteered countless hours to our student/athletes. He is very wise and knows just what to do to help the athlete get back on the field or get proper treatment. Doc is also loved by our coaches and athletes because of his down to earth sense of humor. He’s a funny guy with a huge heart. He bleeds orange and black and we’ll miss him.”