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George Sampson Hill, Jr.

Died: July 11, 1979

George Sampson Hill (Joe) was a devoted swimmer, a sport that required a lot of devotion at Yale in the 1960s. Steve Clark (Class of 65) and Don Schollander (Class of 68), both Olympic gold medalists, shared the pool with him along with many other Olympians. He swam competitively all his life, in junior meets all over the country, at Lawrenceville, and at Yale. He was captain of the swimming team at Yale our senior year, and tried out for the Olympics in 1964.

After graduation, Joe went to Columbia for medical school and from there moved to California where he did his internship and residency at Harbor General Hospital in Torrance. He married Ann Keeler in 1969. Their daughter, Claire, was born in 1973. (Claire now lives in Mintum, Colorado with Joe’s two grandchildren, whom Joe never met.) In 1977 Joe went into private practice as a general surgeon in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. He continued to swim competitively in Masters meets.

In 1979 Joe was shot to death during an armed robbery in which two men tried to steal his car. They were both tried and found guilty. The shooter got the death penalty but likely still is on death row.

Ann remembers him as “a great guy. He was fun to be with, a terrific athlete, could play a mean piano, and was a really good doctor. Some of the notes I received at his death came from former patients who adored him. Above all, he was my best friend and the best father ever. The tragedy is that his life was on a ‘to the moon’ trajectory and those of us around him didn’t get to see how it turned out. He loved Yale and his four years there — some of our best friends were from the Yale years and I’m sure would have remained so to this day. I know some of you guys will remember him warmly.”

Indeed we do.

Jon Streltzer remembers:

Joe was the nicest guy you would ever want to meet. I loved going to all the swim meets that he was in. I watched him win his heat in the Olympic trials. He got mad at me once. We had dates that we took up to West Rock and barbecued a thick steak that we bought. That was quite a splurge for us poor kids. We put the steak on the fire, and Joe went off into the bushes with his date to make out. I was in charge of cooking the steak, but I got carried away with my date, also. The steak got overcooked, and Joe was upset. I felt guilty but it was worth it for both of us.

Paul Hickey remembers:

I didn’t really get to know Joe at Yale, except a few encounters at the Payne Whitney training table, but had the privilege of getting to know him well at Columbia Medical School where his wonderful warm personality, his basic humanity and his decency made him a beloved member of our class. During some of our struggles with the first year course work, Joe and I got to work closely together; his companionship and enthusiasm for life were infectious and helped bring everyone in our section along together in common cause. I lost touch with Joe after graduation from medical school. I was devastated to learn of his untimely and tragic death and find a world without Joe in it a considerably lesser place.