Brother D.E. Hill

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only; but unto all them also that love his appearing.” – II Timothy 4:7-8

D.E. Hill was born August 4, 1910 in Paradise, Missouri, to John and Ida Hill. D.E.’s father was a farmer and Methodist minister who died just before D.E.’s third birthday. When D.E. was nine years old his mother married his step-father, George Milliman. D.E. had three older brothers: Lillard, Myrl, and Herb; three older sisters: Ada, Adella, and Zula; a younger brother, Troy; and, a younger sister, Hazel. D.E. is survived by his sister Zula who will be 98 in June, and Troy who will be 92 in May.

D.E. grew up in Weston, Missouri which is on the Missouri River near Kansas City. As a young child he began to work with his family in the sharecropping of tobacco. He attended school in Weston and played on the high school football, basketball, and track teams. D.E. described himself as a “rascal” and not “a good boy” during his early years when he operated a still with his friend, smoked, drank, and chased girls. D.E. also professed a temper which got him into many fights and precipitated his shooting of his brother Troy when Troy was intentionally scaring off squirrels that D.E. was trying to hunt.

Fortunately, D.E.’s life took a dramatic turn at the age of 21. Although his sister Zula and brother Troy had tried for years to get D.E. to go to church with them, he had other interests and did not want to suffer through a Sunday service with a hangover. Finally, to satisfy the pestering of his brother and sister, D.E. attended service at their church in Leavenworth, Kansas. He had planned a date with a girl that day who instead went to visit an aunt so D.E. had some spare time. At this service D.E. heard the gospel preached for the first time. As he looked around the church he was convinced everyone was either hypnotized or crazy, but he said he “knew they had something (Jesus) that he didn’t”, and he knew that they were a lot happier than he was. He gave his heart to the Lord during this meeting and D.E. started a new life’s journey. Soon after D.E. was saved he was filled with the Holy Spirit at the home of his mother’s brother, Uncle Lorenzo. Ironically, his Uncle Lorenzo had warned him against Pentecostal teachings and the speaking in tongues. Uncle Lorenzo was trying to get D.E. “resaved”. The lights were turned down low in Uncle Lorenzo’s home as D.E. sought the Lord, when suddenly he described that it was like a ball of fire coming over him from heaven and the next thing he knew he was laying face down on the floor speaking in tongues. A short time after his infilling D.E. heeded the Lord calling him into the ministry and he preached the first of what would be thousands of sermons during his life.

At the time D.E. was being called to the ministry he met his future bride, Fern Louise Gorzkiewicz, at the same church he was saved in. Fern had an infant daughter, Nancy, at the time they met. D.E. and Fern were married on February 9, 1933 and their union was blessed with four children: John, Ray (Chub), Idafern, and Paul. As D.E. and Fern started their lives together, D.E. was seeking the Lord to show him the “real purpose of Christianity”. The Lord led D.E. to the writings of A.S. Copley of the Grace Bible College and, ultimately, after studying Brother Copley’s works, the Lord revealed the primary biblical truths that would become the foundation of his ministry including the security of the believer and the grace message espoused by the Apostle Paul in his epistles, confirmation of the infilling of the Holy Spirit evidenced by the speaking in tongues, the second coming of Christ, ranks in the resurrection, and the Bride of Christ.

D.E. first became a pastor in 1934 at Christian Assembly in Weston, Missouri which remains active today. Soon after starting his first pastorship D.E. faced another turning point in his life which started with a dream in 1937. D.E. dreamt of a place that was unknown to him, that had a Platte River and a Broadway Street, also the name “Bleasner” was revealed to him in the dream. Soon after the dream D.E. received a letter from a family in Denver whose last name was Bleasner inviting him to preach at a small church on Second Avenue and Cherokee Street in Denver known as Bethel Chapel. The pastor at Bethel Chapel had recently died and they were searching for a pastor. D.E. went to Denver to preach and the congregation decided to vote on whether to invite him to be their pastor. Everyone in the assembly voted to invite D.E. to be their pastor and D.E. knew this was a confirmation that the Lord was calling his ministry to Denver. D.E. returned to Weston to prepare his family for the move to Denver. D.E.’s mother, whom he deeply loved, implored him not to go. She was convinced that she was going to die soon and that he could go to Denver after she died. D.E. did not adhere to his mother’s wishes and in April 1938 D.E. packed his wife and four children (Nancy, John, Chub and Fernie) into the family’s 1927 Nash and their belongings in a trailer, and moved to Denver, Colorado. D.E.’s mother misdiagnosed herself as she lived for another 30 years reaching the age of 94, and she lived to see her son’s life work blossom in Denver. The assembly at Bethel Chapel had arranged for D.E. to rent his first home in Denver on East Exposition and Logan Street. When D.E. and his family arrived at their home they were greeted by their new friends Lee and Lady Johnson and their family. Brother Lee Johnson would soon become D.E.’s closest and dearest friend and fishing partner.

In 1939 D.E. moved his congregation to Grace Emmanuel in what was known as the “Little White Church” located at the same place where our service is being held today. As the congregation continued to grow during the early 1950s, it was necessary to move to the “Red Church” in 1954 which was located on South Sherman Street, across the street to the north from where we are this morning. It was in 1954 that D.E. changed the name of the church to Living Waters. The congregation continued to grow and it was necessary to raze the Little White Church, and construct the building that we are sitting in this morning which was completed in 1972. D.E. continued to preach at Living Waters until his final sermon on Sunday, March 6, 2005.

D.E. was a man of many facets. D.E. was a family man and a loving husband to his wife Fern for 63 years. God certainly had a hand in bringing two such independent and strong willed people together as husband and wife. D.E. was also a loving father to his five children, each of whom always knew that they had a dad that loved them unconditionally and would do anything for them. It was not always easy being a child of D.E. since he seemed to always know when something was wrong, and he was a strict disciplinarian. It was far better to be a grandchild, great-grandchild, or a great-great-grandchild of D.E. Although D.E. was known to get after his grandchildren (just ask Jesse Hill or David Graham), he had mellowed some by the time his grandchildren began to arrive. D.E. never missed an opportunity to introduce his family to new acquaintances. Anytime you went to a restaurant with him he had to make sure that the waiter or waitress knew his relationship to every family member at the table. He attended countless sporting events, graduations and weddings to show his interest and support of his family. D.E.’s home was filled with hundreds of pictures of his family on every wall and table as constant reminders of treasured memories. D.E. is survived by all of his children and his daughter-in-laws Jewel, Colleen, and Paula, son-in-law David Lueder, 15 grandchildren, 37 great-grandchildren and two great, great- grandchildren. D.E. was preceded in death by his wife Fern, son-in-law John O’Dorisio, and great-great grandson Bradley.

D.E.’s passion had always been fishing. When he first came to Colorado he enjoyed fishing on the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork Rivers of the western slope. He later enjoyed fishing in Wyoming at Encampment, and on the Wind River, and ultimately he was able to enjoy many trips to Alaska to fish for salmon and halibut with his family and friends. D.E.’s golden years of fishing had to be during the 1940s and 1950s when he would go up to Deckers and Cheeseman Canyon with his friend, Lee Johnson. D.E. was able to continue fishing through this past year. He went up to the Michigan Creek near Fairplay several times with his son Chub. He also enjoyed a trip with his grandson Jesse O’Dorisio’s family even though he was a little embarrassed when he fell in the river and his granddaughter-in-law Polly tried to rescue him. Even while he was fishing he never missed an opportunity to share the gospel and tell someone about the Lord. In part, D.E. probably loved fishing so much because many of the Lord’s disciples were fishermen and because he was honored to have been called by the Lord to be a fisher of men just as Christ had called Peter and Andrew.

D.E. was also an incredible cook. He was the chef in charge at almost every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinner. He cooked the turkey and prime rib for this last year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. One of the family’s favorite dishes that he prepared was the “popo peas”. D.E.’s cooking had a definite southern influence and included many fried foods, pork, lard, and of course, butter.

D.E. was an avid antique collector for many years. During his travels through the midwest he was always searching for furniture, dishes, glasses, bowls, and other collectibles. It was amazing how he could catalog in his mind all of the furniture, dishes, and glassware he had collected. He knew when and where he bought every piece, and usually the amount he paid for each item.

Even though D.E. moved to the city as a young man, he remained a country boy–a farmer. He always had a vegetable garden and fruit trees. For many years he had a garden next to the Little White Church. He enjoyed sharing the tomatoes, beans, lettuce, and corn he would grow. He also canned fruits and vegetables. One of his favorite things to do every year was to go to the western slope during the peach harvest and bring back a car full of peaches for canning.

In his later years the Lord allowed D.E. to become somewhat of a traveler. He traveled throughout North America and enjoyed trips to the continents of Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia, and throughout North America. Even though he experienced many exotic trips, his favorite trips were when he would pack up his car with a couple family members and travel back to his childhood home of Weston where he could visit with his family and old friends.

Although there were many facets to D.E., he was first and foremost a loving pastor. A pastor is a combination of preacher, teacher, student, counselor, and guide. D.E. never stopped being a student of the Word of God during the last 73 years of his life. During his study, the Lord never stopped revealing inner truths to him for his ministry. He was a passionate preacher and teacher of the Word of God. Many times it appeared as if he was about to fly off the pulpit as the Spirit blessed him during a service. He taught the Word of God for over 70 continuous years. He was also a loving counselor and guide to his congregation (his flock). He always made himself available to those in need, those who needed encouragement. He had an enormous impact on many lives and there are many of us who cannot imagine what our lives would have been without D.E.’s counsel. His home was constantly opened to visitors. There were times when during a year there would not be one day that a visitor was not staying at D.E.’s home. He received countless calls awaking him in the middle of the night from someone needing prayer. His life was not his own–his life was committed for service to the Lord. As a pastor he had a gift of finding jewels for the Lord. Just as when he was able to find a valuable antique being discarded, he was able to search out a troubled life that the world had discarded and show them the path to the Lord Jesus.

D.E. had an unwavering and tested faith in the Lord. Three times during his life his faith in the healing powers of the Lord were tested as he confronted life threatening illnesses. The first time was in the early 1930s in Missouri when he was delivered from hepatitis. The second time was when he was delivered from rheumatoid arthritis in 1960, which was a disease that left his mother confined to a wheelchair for the last 30 years of her life. The third time was in 1983 when D.E. had a severe reaction to Butazoladin which afflicted him for months with a skin reaction similar to that suffered by burn victims that many of us here today recall.

D.E. bore the mark of a pastor, a man of God. Oftentimes he would be approached by a stranger at a store or on a plane and asked if he were a preacher or a minister. He was constantly witnessing to strangers about the Lord. You wonder if they ever appreciated what they were experiencing when D.E. would tell them about Jesus. They were talking to a man who was expressing the love of God for them without ever having met them before. He wanted to share with them that their Creator loved them so much that He allowed His only Son to be crucified on a cross to save them from the sin of this world, so they could have eternal life. D.E. knew that each of our souls have the same immense value to God regardless of our station in life.

D.E. was a pastor well established in the Word of God and he would not compromise what God had revealed to him in the scriptures. He taught his congregation not to look upon him nor any other man, but to set your eyes on the Lord, to “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). He encouraged each of us to run our race for Christ and to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

These are a few of the characteristics that we will always remember about this remarkable man:

We will always remember his large strong hands- the firm handshakes and embraces and the pats on the back that could take your breath away if you weren’t expecting it.

The way he had to turn his head toward you with his right ear so he could hear you-having lost all his hearing in his left ear as a child.

His loud heart-felt laugh. He would laugh so hard his whole body would shake, and his eyes would tear up-remember him removing his glasses and dabbing his eyes with his handkerchief. He loved cute humor and would read the comic page of the paper everyday-his favorite cartoon character used to be Snuffy Smith, surely the Lil Abner comic strip reminded him of his childhood days in Weston.

His quick step that made him so hard to keep up with as he was fishing, shopping, or sight-seeing. It is hard to remember anytime that he wasn’t in a hurry. He had to be–just think of what he did and accomplished over the 94 years, seven months and 21 days the Lord gave him on this earth.

The tension you would feel as you waited for him to get his meal in a restaurant. First of all he was rarely served timely and if his meal wasn’t prepared to his expectation you know the server would be told how bad it was-and if it was really bad you often heard him tell the waiter or waitress that he wouldn’t feed it to a cat. (Understand that D.E. didn’t have much use for cats except to keep mice away on a farm).

The nicknames he labeled us with and called us by . . . “Sis”, “Chub”, “Bugs”, “Dolly”, “Digger”, and “Dude”.

The way he would call out for “Fern!” who often ignored his first few calls.

His variety of dress from overalls and hat working in his garden to the suits and ties he wore while preaching. No one could look better than D.E. in a white suit.

His joy when handing out candy from his sack to the children after Sunday services.

Most of all we will remember those eyes (often tear filled) that showed his and God’s tenderness and love toward us.

On February 25th D.E. was diagnosed with terminal cancer when he was undergoing a procedure to repair a hernia. The diagnosis was the beginning of a wonderful time for D.E., his family and friends as they were able to prepare for D.E.’s home going. The cards, letters, and visits D.E. received throughout the last few weeks of his life were such a blessing to him and his family. At about 4:56 a.m. on Thursday, March 24, 2005, our dear pastor, father, grandfather and friend left this earth in a glorious home going from his home in the presence of many family members. As we gather here today we are mindful of what D.E. taught. We know he is not in this body he has left behind. He had asked us to place the corn husks on his casket today to symbolize that he is indeed gone from this body. As he put it “the corn is in the bin.” Today our tears are tears of joy and rejoicing as we know D.E. is finally home. Our family wants to extend our sincerest thanks to all of you for joining in this celebration of such a wonderful fruitful life for the Lord. Our Lord and Savior Jesus has been a comfort to us all for we know that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8), and that He is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). As you leave here today, there are four things that D.E.’s family wants you to mindful of. First, several times during his last days he would utter “what a wonderful journey it has been”. Second, after he finished his last sermon he affirmed to his son Paul that “my work on earth is done”. Third, we hope you know in your heart how much he loved each and every one of us and how much we meant to him. And, finally, we know that D.E. would not want anyone to leave this meeting today without knowing Jesus as their personal Savior.