Eugene Walter “Bugs” Hill, age 96, passed away peacefully at his home in Trout Lake on April 8, 2019. He was the husband of Lorraine Marie “Rainy” (Elmer) Hill, with whom he shared 78 glorious years of marriage.
Bugs was born on May 16, 1922, in The Dalles, Ore., to Stephen and Leone (Doty) Hill. Upon first sight of his new son, his father said he looked like a bug, hence the lifelong nickname! Bugs moved to White Salmon as a young child.
On Nov. 15, 1940, he married his high school sweetheart, Rainy. During their school lunch break, the high school seniors went across the street to the Methodist Church, where their family and friends joined them for a brief wedding ceremony. Wedding bells turned to school bells, and the couple returned to class as husband and wife.
Bugs joined the army in 1942. Initially, he served as a military policeman at the Boeing plant in Seattle. Since Bugs was rather thin, this was not a good fit for him. He requested a transfer to a combat engineering unit and drove both light and heavy trucks in the European Theater.
After the end of World War II, Bugs returned to White Salmon and worked in his father’s grocery store (Hill’s Red & White). Bugs remained in the grocery business for the next 30 years. During that time, he owned and operated several different grocery stores in White Salmon. However, he is certainly most well-known for his years as the butcher at Hill’s Meat Market.
In the mid-70’s, Bugs was ready for a major career change. He and Rainy moved to Trout Lake and worked as custodians at the Trout Lake School for the next 10 years.
Bugs drove school bus for over 40 years and was everybody’s favorite bus driver. This might have been due, in part, to his occasionally bringing ice cream bars for his passengers. Bugs decided it was time to retire when he realized he was driving the third generation of several local families.
All his life, Bugs worked hard and played hard. During his younger years, he was a skilled ski jumper and slalom racer, and was a founding member of the Mt. Adams Ski Club. This was followed by many years of skiing with his family at Cooper Spur and snowmobiling near Mt. Adams.
Bugs loved to fly! He had a pilot’s license and owned several private airplanes. When Bugs moved to the top of Strawberry Mountain in White Salmon, he couldn’t resist the temptation to build an airfield on top. Since the field was very short, he needed to cut down the trees on the west and east ends of the mountain. Even then, he would get airborne just as the mountain dropped away beneath him.
Bugs was an avid rock-hound. Many summer weekends were spent traveling with family and friends to remote locations in Oregon and Washington looking for the “perfect” rocks. Bugs would then cut or tumble the rocks and turn them into jewelry or coffee tables.
But what Bugs enjoyed more than anything else was hiking and camping on Mt. Adams. He recognized that the true beauty of the mountain wasn’t the meadows, crooked creeks, or Elephant Head flowers, it was the memories the mountain supplied for him with family and friends. Mt. Adams, to Bugs, was his life. In 1956, he took his young family on a backpacking trip around the base of Mt. Adams – this adventure is chronicled in the book, “The Highline Trail,” and was the first of many adventures he had up on the mountain. Bugs instilled this love for the outdoors in the many generations of his family. A summer was never complete until the family camped at his favorite spot, Bird Lake, and hiked to Bird Creek Meadows, Crooked Creek, Frog Pond and Hellroaring Overlook with a handful of kiddos at his side.
Having a close and loving family was always very important to Bugs and Rainy. Their home was the gathering place for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, among other holidays. Bugs especially enjoyed Easter because he got to hide plastic Easter eggs for the older kids and let his prankster side come out. The kids never knew where Bugs was going to hide the eggs, but somehow he always found new and impossible places. Nothing was off limits, including burying the eggs in snow banks, deep in bushes and he was even known to dig an occasional hole in the ground!
Bugs touched the lives of many in our local community. He was a true gentleman, always willing to help anyone in need, and a very sly prankster. Stories of his escapades will be shared by family and friends for many years.
Bugs was preceded in death by his parents, brother (Stephen), sister (Margaret), daughter (Sherry) and great-great grandson (Cody). He is survived by his beloved wife of 78 years, Rainy; son, Dennis; five grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, May 4, 2019, at 2 p.m. at the Trout Lake School (2310 Highway 141). There will be a reception immediately following the service.