"If you knew him, he was a little rough around the edges, but his heart was always in the right place,” said John Hill of his late father, Norman Hill.
“He was the first guy to pat you on the back and say you did a good job that day and make sure you were involved in whatever was going on that night.”
Norman, known as Norm in Hay River where he spent much of his life, passed away in a car accident on November 7 at the age of 78 – just a month shy of his 79th birthday.
According to Idaho State Police, Norm and his wife Eleanor went off the road and rolled their vehicle outside the community of Spencer, Idaho. They were on their way to their winter home in Palm Springs.
Norm succumbed to his injuries at the scene, while Eleanor was airlifted to a hospital in Idaho Falls. She was discharged on November 14 and is now back at home in Sherwood Park, Alberta, where she is “doing very well,” according to her son.
'We always say he worked two lifetimes'
John recounted how his father moved to Hay River in the early 1960s, working a variety of jobs before opening up the Cedar Rest Motel and gas station.
The gas station took off, and – after a handful of additions and name changes – is known today as the Super A Foods grocery store and gas bar.
“We always say he worked two lifetimes, just with the amount of hours he put in and how important it was to him to succeed and make sure the people around him succeeded,” said John, saying it was not uncommon for his father to work 14, 16 or even 18-hour days.
"He helped out as many people as he could.”
John said Norm continued to help out with the store up, and shipping goods north, until his death – forever a man who liked to be busy and involved.
In addition to running the store, Norm served one term as Hay River’s mayor in the early 1990s; worked for CN, the Northern Transportation Company Limited (NTCL), and NWT Coachlines; ran a school bus; opened a body shop; and ran the Greyhound bus depot during the decades he spent in Hay River.
"He was one of those iconic guys that will be missed,” said John, adding the store wouldn’t be where it is today without his father’s vision.
Despite the tragedy – John said Norm used to call him every day – family members decided they “weren’t going to sit around and mope.”
"We are going to celebrate my dad and continue on making sure my mom is happy and healthy,” said John.
Norm is survived by his loving wife of 60 years, Eleanor; his two daughters, Janet Dreidger (Danny) and Sharon Hill, and son, John Hill (Tracy), as well as grandchildren and great grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother, Floyd Hill, and sister, Ella VanDusen.
Plans for Norm's celebration of life will be made once Eleanor has fully recovered.