PENDLETON - A longtime area rancher and Round-Up supporter died Friday at the age of 92.
Fred Hill was a Round-Up director from 1952 to 1962, serving as president for his last two years. He also served as director of noncompetitive events, Indian director and vice president. His daughter, Ann, was the 1957 Round-Up Queen.
"The Round-Up Board is deeply saddened with the news," Round-Up Publicity Director Butch Thurman said. "Fred was always a big part of what made Round-Up and Happy Canyon what it is today. He was a colorful guy and will be greatly missed."
Hill started volunteering for the Round-Up in the early 1930s. As a youngster he folded Round-Up programs. Later he sold programs and ushered. Eventually he helped move fence for bucking events and then became a gatekeeper.
He also performed many years in the Happy Canyon Pageant, the evening show held during the Round-Up each September.
Hill was best known in the pageant for the silhouetted miner's scene that opened the Wild West portion of the show. He portrayed a miner who emerges from his tent to greet a new dawn.
"He'd get up and scratch and yawn," long time friend George Corey recalled. "Then he would try to wake his partner up. He was played by Fred's son Fritz. He just wouldn't get up until Fred threw a bucket of water on him and Fritz would come out just yelling and screaming. Nobody ever played it better than Fred and Fritz in my opinion."
Hill also was assistant to the doctor, then portrayed by his brother, Jim Jr. The humorous physician's role was passed down to Fritz and then a grandson, Jason.
Fred Hill was grand marshal of the Westward Ho! Parade in 1994. When he was selected, parade director the late Pat Gugin said: "Fred is a respected member of the community and has been involved so long and done so much. It was just an odds-on choice, and long overdue recognizing him."
"Everybody liked him," Corey said. "He was a real leader in both the farming community and the city community."
"He had such a wonderful sense of humor," Beryl Grilley of Pendleton recalled. Grilley sat with Fred recently at the memorial service for his brother, Jim, at the Let 'er Buck Room of the Round-Up Grounds.
"We found a lot to laugh about," Grilley said. "I'm sorry that he's gone. Everything he did, he did well."
Hill also was renowned as a farmer, businessman and outstanding storyteller, a talent passed on to Fritz. Hill was appointed to Oregon highway commission in 1967. That commission is now known as the Oregon Transportation Commission, which Pendleton resident Steve Corey chaired. He benefited from Fred Hill's experience.
"While I served as chairman I would from time to time visit with Fred to ask for advice," he said. "He was always forthright with his thoughts of the needs of Oregon's highways."
Hill's grandparents established a farm near Helix, which remains in the family. But his parents, Jim Sr. and Beulah Hill, moved to Pendleton when he was 5 years old.
In high school, Hill played on the Pendleton High basketball team that won the 1931 state championship. He went on to play basketball for Oregon State University for the legendary coach Slats Gill.
He graduated from OSU in Corvallis and worked on the family farm for a time. He also spent four years as an OSU Extension Service agent in Baker City.
He retired several years ago in Walla Walla.