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Louise 'Eleanor' Hill, who taught math in Brooklyn Park, dies at 84

25December 2021

Growing up in the segregated South, Louise “Eleanor” Hill attended grade and high school on the campus of the West Virginia State College, a historically Black institution where her father, a chemist, was the president and was later tasked with desegregating it.

The experience meant she didn’t have to be bused to the nearest “Black school” 45 minutes away, but lived and learned in a thriving academic environment where only excellence would do.

“She was marvelous,” said lifelong friend Langley Spurlock. When he landed in Eleanor’s junior high classes at the college (now called West Virginia State University), he expected to get pounced on by all the teens.

But she had his back. She was just 14, but calm and poised. “Her personality was just to simply to say to the [older] girls and particularly the boys of that group that, ‘He is now one of us,’ ” he said. “If you are head of the ‘in’ crowd, they listen to you, and she was definitely the head of the ‘in’ crowd.”

Hill died Dec. 10 of kidney failure at the age of 84 in Brooklyn Park.

She attended Fisk University in Tennessee for a year and graduated from West Virginia State College in 1959 with a degree in chemistry. She was a lifelong member of the Black sorority Delta Sigma Theta. She then earned a master’s in teaching from Wayne State University in Detroit. In 1962, she married her college sweetheart, Airman Joe A. Hill.

The new graduates settled into jobs in West Virginia — she as a math teacher Dunbar and he as a cost analyst in Charleston. They had a son, William, and then a daughter, Toni.

The couple headed to Minnesota for Joe Hill’s job in Fridley in 1970, heeding advice from her father’s friend then-Gov. Harold LeVander to bring “proper clothes — parkas, sheep-lined boots, thermal jackets” for the cold winters.

When they moved to Brooklyn Center, the Hills were the only minorities in the neighborhood and took up skiing, bowling and everything Minnesota.

“If you said ‘Let’s,’ she’d say ‘Go!'” recalled daughter Toni Hill Duberry. “She was very easy-going and loved to ‘go.’ It didn’t matter where it was for a dinner, movie, casino or function.”

Hill quickly became friends with neighbors, other parents and members of Brooklyn United Methodist Church.

When she started teaching math at North View Junior High School in Brooklyn Park in 1973, she was the school’s only Black teacher. A custodian and a secretary rounded out the other Black employees. The trio met monthly at the nearby Chili’s and started a directory of other Black employees in Osseo School District 279.

The tiny list grew over the years. By the time she retired in 2000, more than half North View’s student population were people of color. She returned in 2003 as a paraprofessional, co-teaching math to special-ed students and mentoring younger teachers until 2018, when she left to care for her ailing husband.

Hill always dressed so professionally that younger teachers nicknamed her “Ms. Fly.” She, in turn, dispensed teaching tips and praised them for never using learning as a form of punishment.

“I am a great math teacher today because she would watch me and give me pointers. She cared,” said Ternesha Burroughs, a fellow sorority sister. “She really cared.”

Besides her husband and children, Hill is survived by three grandchildren. A celebration of life will be held Jan. 3 at 10 a.m. at Brooklyn United Methodist Church.

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