Franklin Roosevelt Hill of Palmyra, a landscaper who retired from University of Virginia Facilities Management after 35 years of service with a reputation for leading the University’s snow removal efforts, died May 14 at his home. He was 66.
Hill, who retired in 2012, joined Facilities Management in 1977 as a member of the grounds crew. His dedication and exemplary skill with heavy equipment such as forklifts, backhoes and snowplows earned him a stellar reputation within the department.
At his retirement, he was a landscape equipment operator in the landscape division. He was known as the “Snow Czar,” with the reputation of always being the first to arrive and among the last to leave in the event of a winter storm.
Throughout his career at the University, he responded to emergencies from downed trees to broken water mains. His skills and leadership were tapped to install art exhibits, move delicate physics instruments and excavate archaeological sites. On one notable occasion, Hill was working with Rivanna Archaeology and pulling back mulch and some soil behind the University Cemetery when they discovered the clear outlines of long-forgotten graves in the enslaved laborers’ cemetery.
The University Police Department counted on Hill to ensure that access roads and parking lots were accessible to emergency vehicles during bad weather.
“With a smile, he is always ready for the unforeseen problem,” then-police Chief Michael Sheffield said in 2000. “His ability to evaluate and adapt to any emergency need has been a tremendous asset on many occasions.”
Hill earned an Outstanding Contributor Award from the University in 2000, one of 11 employees honored that year.
“He takes ownership of a problem, stays focused until the job is completed to everyone’s satisfaction and makes friends in the process,” wrote Richard S. Fowler, then director of facilities operations, in nominating Hill for the accolade.
The University had a tree planted on Grounds in his honor on Founder’s Day in 2006, a white oak near the University Cemetery on Alderman Road. He was nominated by the Arboretum and Landscape Committee.
“Your support of many high-profile events and projects during your time with Facilities Management has been invaluable,” wrote Donald Sundgren, associate vice president and chief facilities officer for the University, in a letter to Hill at the time of his retirement. “From visiting presidents and dignitaries, record snowstorms to summer hurricanes, coal fires and mulch fires you’ve played a key role in just about everything that has occurred on Grounds. There are at least 16 Extraordinary Contributor awards in your employee file acknowledging your dedication to the University.”
He is survived by his wife, Delores B. Hill; a son, Bryant Hill; and brothers, Curtis Hill, Jesse Hill, Daniel Hill and Nelson Hill, all of Charlottesville. A memorial service was held Saturday.