Rev. John B. Hills

June 7, 1928 ~ February 10, 2024 (age 95) 95 Years Old

Rev. John Hills Obituary

The Rev. John B. Hills, of Grand Haven, MI, passed away on Saturday, February 10, 2024, ending 95 years of brilliant, humorous, complexity. He was born on June 7, 1928, to Henry B. and Florence M. (Runner) Hills in Providence, Rhode Island.

John spent most of his childhood in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and attended Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts, then Yale University where he received a Bachelor’s degree in History of Art in 1949, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Master’s degree in History of Art in 1950, including studying as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of London.

During the Korean War, John enlisted in the U.S. Army from 1952 – 1955, where he learned Russian, and was stationed with the Army Security Agency in Germany as a Communication Reconnaissance Specialist, intercepting and translating radio communications between Russian and East German units.

John enrolled in the Nashotah House Theological Seminary where he received a Master’s degree in Divinity in 1956. Between 1957 and 1994, John served Episcopal parishes in Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, including 15 years at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven. He also served for three years as the Archdeacon of the Episcopal Western Diocese of Michigan. John retired in 1994 after which he continued involvement with parishes in East Grand Rapids and Grand Haven. He also served as a volunteer art guide at the Muskegon Museum of Art and undertook an extensive genealogical study of his family in Hungary, many of whom died in the Holocaust.

John was a life-long student; always curious and interested in learning about nature, religions, and languages. He loved being in nature, going on many camping trips in National Parks and hiking in Ottawa County parks. His ability to identify many species of trees, flowers, and shrubs was broad, including their various traits.

John could speak, read, and write French, German, Latin, and Russian, and could read and write ancient Greek and Hebrew. A request for assistance with the definition of a word was routinely answered with “get the dictionary,” and usually resulted in John randomly choosing other words and talking about their origins.

John had a great sense of humor, often pulling pranks to the great pleasure of his children and dismay of their friends. He made a conscious effort to “take off the collar at the door” and just be a dad. His extemporaneous stories at night created much laughter and often delayed bed-times. He loved good jokes and particularly enjoyed bawdy British comedy programs.

John’s memory was legendary, particularly of the many people he encountered in his years of service. Just a few days before he began the next part of his journey, he complained of not being able to “find” words during conversations, but then rattled off the definition of several words in Russian he learned more than 70 years ago.

John is survived by his son, Mark Hills of Grand Haven, MI; grandchildren: Bradley Hills, Audrey Hills, and Eleanor Hills; and nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews and their families.

He was preceded in death by his parents; his son, David Hills; his sisters, Anne Truesdall and Mary Lou Hill; and his niece, Virginia Thibodeau.

In lieu of flowers, Memorial Contributions in John’s memory may be made to the Nature Conservancy in Michigan, the Ottawa County Parks Foundation, or the Momentum Center in Grand Haven.

A Memorial Celebration will occur later in the spring, date to be announced.

Interment will be at Grand Haven Township Lakeshore Cemetery.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Rev. John B. Hills, please visit our floral store.

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Celebration of Life at a later date to be announced


The Nature Conservancy-Michigan (Attn: Treasury)
4245 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100, Arlington VA 22203
Tel: 1-800-628-6860

Ottawa County Parks Foundation
P.O. Box 314, West Olive MI 49460
Tel: 1-616-215-6544

Momentum Center
401 N. 7th St., Grand Haven MI 49417
Tel: 1-616-414-9111


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