Dr. Alfred Emanuel Hill, Hickory Native Son, Member of “The Greatest Generation”
HICKORY – Dr. Alfred Emanuel Hill, well-known Hickory optometrist and multi-trophied golfer, died Sunday morning, July 16th, 2017 at Kingston Residence following a period of declining health. He was 92.
He was born May 16, 1925 in Hickory to James Henry and Sadie Salvo Hill and spent nearly his whole life there, loving the familiarity of the people and places that surrounded him. He achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and later served as a Scoutmaster.
Known affectionately as “Fonze,” “Alphonse,” and “Big Al,” he received his first set of golf clubs when he was 12 years old, playing at Lake Hickory Country Club on sand greens. Several older members once referred to him as a “child golf prodigy.” He made the golf team in high school (Claremont Central), at The Citadel, and the Army golf team while stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky during World War II.
Army Generals invited him to play with them at the exclusive Louisville Country Club, an offer which he gladly accepted. He later also played on the golf team at the Illinois College of Optometry, where he received his O.D. degree in 1950.
He may have had one regret his whole life, and that was over his appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis while he was a student at Lenoir Rhyne College. Unfortunately, a botched eye examination prevented this from working out. He went on to volunteer for the Paratroopers, and was turned down for this because of his flat feet.
He then joined the Army, and made Staff Sergeant in 10 months while at Camp Blanding, Florida at the Infantry Replacement Training Center. When the war ended, he helped disband this camp and then went on to Fort Knox where he was placed in charge of the motor pool, an amazing accomplishment for someone who was only 19 years old.
Following his end of service, he returned to The Citadel, and then went on to the Illinois College of Optometry on the recommendation of a friend.
He met the love of his life, Peggy Jane Blum of Winston-Salem, on a blind date in 1948. The following year they were married and he took her back to Chicago while he finished optometry school. They returned to Hickory where Dr. Hill opened his optometry practice in 1951. The first of three children, Sara, was born that year, followed by Denni in 1953 and Alfred, Jr. in 1959.
Dr. Hill continued to excel at the game he loved so much, capturing the Catawba Country Club Championships in both 1954 and 1956, and later several Lake Hickory Country Club championships. In 1963, with the whole family in tow, he beat out “Dynamite” Goodloe in the quarter finals of the Southern Amateur Golf Tournament in Rome, Georgia. To his family, this was the equivalent of winning the US Open or the Masters.
He played the Carolinas Amateur tournament at Pinehurst #2 course, making his way to the quarter finals in 1955. With his son, Al Jr., he won the Carolinas Golf Association Father-Son Golf Tournament in 1978. He qualified for the USGA Senior Amateur tourney twice (1982, 1986), and was asked to join the Society of Seniors in 1983 where he remained a charter member until his death. On November 19, 2007, at the age of 82, he shot a hole in one at Lake Hickory Country Club.
He was a lover of good jazz, a taste which he refined during his Chicago days when he would frequently be found at the “Blue Note” Club. Here, he heard such greats as Nat King Cole, Woody Herman, George Shearing, Stan Kenton, and Lionel Hampton.
He transferred this love of music to all three children, who love to tell the story of the day he came home from Starr Music Mart with the new Chubby Checker album under his arm. He ordered the entire family into the living room where he proceeded to teach them how to do the “Twist.” He and Peggy were quite the pair on the dance floor, and they remained members of the Hickory Cotillion and other dance clubs for many years.
Al was a member of the Catawba Valley Optometric Society, serving as their President in 1955. He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry.
He served as Director of the Greater Hickory United fund campaign of 1959-1960. He also served as President of Hickory’s Quarterback Club in 1954. He was a member of the Hickory Kiwanis Club for 31 years, serving as President from 1974-1975.
Al was a man of quiet, constant faith and deep intellect. He was an active and devoted member of First Presbyterian Church for over 70 years, serving as a Deacon, teaching Sunday school and participating in many of their outreach ministries and committees.
As Al said in an interview many years ago in the Hickory Daily Record, “My church has a covenant that says that we give of our time, our abilities and our money. That’s the way I go about everything.” He believed deeply in the importance of family, and this same faith carries on today within the many who knew and loved him.
He was predeceased by his wife of 60 years, Peggy, in 2009. Surviving him are daughter Sara and husband Hank Williams of Graham; daughter Denni of Winston-Salem, and son Al, Jr. of Gainesville, Florida, as well as six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
The memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 22nd at 2:00pm, First Presbyterian Church, with Reverend Heather Wood Davis officiating. The family welcomes everyone to join them in the fellowship hall following the service. Private burial for family at Oakwood Cemetery will precede the memorial service.
We would like to offer our sincere thanks and gratitude to the staff of Kingston Residence who gave such extraordinary care to our father. Special thanks also are extended to Laura Moody and Alana Gibbs for their special love and attention. And, the “Angel Team” of Angela Herman and Angela Myers of Catawba Regional Hospice is to be commended for their unique expertise and devotion.
The family requests that memorials be made to First Presbyterian Church or Catawba Regional Hospice.
Bass-Smith Funeral Home in Hickory is serving the family of Dr. Alfred Emanuel Hill.
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