Some Toledo residents called Carol Hill “everybody’s mother.”
Her love of children meant that at 66, the great-grandmother was still playing an active role in raising kids in the community. She was the longest-running woman on the city council, and was so valued by Mayor Steve Dobosh that when Hill became home-bound due to declining health, city codes were changed to allow her to attend meetings virtually.
“She kept wanting to quit because she couldn’t come in person. And I told her she couldn’t as long as I was mayor, because I needed her input,” he recalled this week. “That’s how much I had confidence in her.”
Hill died last week. She is survived by three children, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
To many who knew her, it seemed like Hill was born to take care of people. City Manager Michelle Whitten knew Hill from the time she began on Toledo’s planning commission in 1999.
“She was just that caring, motherly person who would take anybody under her wing. That was Carol,” Whitten said. “She welcomed everybody and anybody into her home, into her life.”
A beautician by trade, Hill was later employed by the state. Despite no formal training, she worked in payroll for the Department of Social and Health Services and the Attorney General’s Office, later deciding to run for city council in 2004.
In her last few years, Hill was still giving small kids in the family their first-ever haircuts. Even when she could barely stand, she would walk to neighbors’ houses to deliver casseroles or her famous yeast rolls, said Glenda Forga, her sister who served alongside her on the council. When their other sister, Joan Caywood, was no longer able to walk, Hill moved her into her house, giving up her own bedroom.
If you ask Forga, Hill’s caretaker tendencies started early in their childhood. As the story goes, 6-year-old Hill had to learn her ABCs and recite them perfectly if she wanted to be the first person to hold her baby sister — Forga — when she got home from the hospital.
“She was so determined to hold that baby,” Forga said. “She was like a mom to me as well … Carol was like our protector.”
A few years later, when the family’s home pressed up against an assisted living facility, Hill would take her kid sisters to go keep the seniors company.
“We’d just go over and visit old people,” Forga said. “They’d be knitting and crocheting and we’d hold their yarn … then we’d make the rounds to the other rooms, make friends with other people. So she’s been doing that, taking care of people, for years and years.”
Forga, now the executive director of Lewis County Seniors, credits her sister for sparking her passion for taking care of the aging. For her work at the nonprofit, Forga was recently named The Chronicle’s 2020 Person of the Year.
“She helped me so much. Financially, spiritually, emotionally,” Forga said of her sister. “Whatever I needed, that’s where I went.”
Her love for her family, Whitten said, was evidenced by the “twinkle in her eye.”
“She just lit up when she talked about her family. She just loved them all so much.”
Hill’s willingness to help others would also get her in trouble. Forga recalls getting frustrated with how quick her sister was willing to give, even as a single mother taking care of ailing relatives or young children.
“I would get so mad at her. She would literally give away her last dollar,” Forga said. “She’d just say, ‘well, somebody’s got to help.’”
Forga also recalls being shocked when Hill decided to run for city council, since she had little free time to begin with. But it quickly became a passion, she said. Serving alongside each other, Forga and her sister often butted heads. But Hill’s arguments were often compelling.
“What she didn’t want to change (about Toledo) was the old-time culture, the hometown feel, where the kids played in the yard and everybody watched everybody’s kids. Where your kids could run around town all day long and you wouldn’t have to worry about it,” she said.
Hill’s vision for the town was similar to Dobosh’s, who said he could always rely on her to be honest with him.
“I could always count on Carol to give me a straightforward answer, whether I liked it or not. And that’s OK. I like to shoot from the hip myself,” he said. “Carol was very much like that.”
The family’s deep roots in Toledo, he said, also meant that Hill brought invaluable historical knowledge to the council.
In honor of Hill and her affinity for children, Dobosh is setting up a donation-based scholarship fund for the local high school. Residents can donate at the school district’s office.
“Carol loved kids. I really didn’t want to give flowers. I thought I could give something better. And I think she’s smiling,” Dobosh said.