For the last 20 years, Richard Hill was the cheerful, helpful parking ambassador for the Chestnut Hill Business Association (CHBA) who greeted visitors and made them feel welcome, usually in the “yellow” parking lot behind the Santander Bank branch at 8623 Germantown Ave. that is now closed, and the Bank of America branch at 8601 Germantown Ave.
Hill, a lifelong Mt. Airy resident whose admirers included many of the Germantown Avenue businesses at the top of the Hill, died Sept. 4 at home. He was 84. Hill had been dealing with a serious heart condition for several years.
Natalie Sullivan, Hill's daughter, a mother of five children, told us last week, “My dad was a loving, kind father. As a child, I was a real daddy's girl. I wanted to go everywhere with him because we were so close, and he would take me. He was a caring, loving, kind person, always putting other people first.”
Hill was one of four parking ambassadors working for what is now The Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation, which was founded in 1952 and includes six public parking lots with more than 250 parking spaces. The ambassadors distribute parking stickers, now in only three of the lots. (Hill has not been replaced.)
“The other parking ambassadors still in their huts, Tim Alexander, Ed Cornely and Damek Kristiniak, all have that kind of personality that Richard had,” according to Kate O'Neill, deputy director of operations and grants for the CHBA. “They are all proud of their neighborhood, and they are warm and service-oriented.”
Hill attended Dobbins High School in the West Lehigh neighborhood of North Philadelphia and then spent eight years in the U.S. Air Force. After his military service, Hill worked for the U.S. Mint for two years, then entered the police academy and became a Philadelphia police officer for 37 years. He worked mostly in the First Police District in South Philadelphia.
“He loved being a policeman,” Sullivan said. “He really did love serving the people of Philadelphia and trying to keep them safe. If there were any bad incidents that he had, he never talked about them. He was also a big sports fan, especially football.”
Tim Alexander, a parking ambassador for the last 12 years for CHBA and close friend of Hill's who handles the “blue parking lot” on West Highland Avenue, halfway between Germantown Avenue and Ardleigh Street, said last week, “Rich was a very nice, friendly guy. He liked working with the public and talking to people. He would show them how to use the machines (kiosks).
“He was in the Air Force, and I was in the Marines, so we had a friendly rivalry. He told me he tried to get into the Marines, but they were filled up, so he went into the Air Force instead,” Alexander continued. “We never had a disagreement in the 12 years we knew each other. He did talk about being a cop in Philly. I would give him a ride home to Mt. Airy in the summertime. I grew up in Germantown, but I have lived in Chestnut Hill for 54 years and worked in Chestnut Hill for 63 years…
“Rich told me how much he missed his wife after she died. He was so generous. Anyone who would ask to borrow money, he'd give it to them, even though they did not always pay him back. We never missed a day because of weather. Rich always talked about playing soul music and pinochle in his basement. He had heart problems in the last year or so, but that did not stop him from coming to work.”
Hill is survived by his companion of 37 years, Elmira Smith, loving daughters, Natalie Sullivan, of Northeast Philadelphia, and Tanya Newman, now of California; grandchildren, Danielle, Eric, Tanesha, Kayla, Julius, Brianna, Branden and Jared. Also great-grandchildren, Cedrick, Benjamin, Alonzo, Leon and Kamryn; two nieces and a wide circle of friends. Funeral services were held at Beckett, Brown and Hodges Funeral Home in Germantown.
Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org