Raymond Hill, Businessman, Benefactor and former “Klingberg Home Kid” donated $2 million for a very special school.
I like to think of my life as “An American Story,” not unlike that of thousands of others who have had the privilege of living in a nation that encourages making the best of what you’ve been given. Ours was not an “Ozzie and Harriett” type of family. My mother married young, and my father left, for good, when I was barely three years old. World War II was being waged and she had little choice but to go to work just to support herself. She spent her days in a factory, and the three of us kids spent our days and nights at the Klingberg Children’s Home. When I was nine, my Mom remarried, and we all moved into a nearby housing project.
My mother always did her best, but there wasn’t much time to spend doting on whether we kids had a nice day in school, or how we were doing in our subjects. We were more in survival mode. School was never a rewarding experience for me. In fact, my happiest day of the year was always the last day of school! Reading didn’t come easy and Math was a struggle. The New Britain school system tried to offer me extra help, and I appreciate all they did in that regard. Years later, I came to realize that a learning disability was contributing to my frustration.
After barely graduating from the 8th grade, it was off to trade school. It was still school, however, and I couldn’t quite get with the program. My next best option was the army. Which I really liked. It wasn’t wartime, and I didn’t have to worry about where my next meal was coming from.
When I returned to New Britain in 1958, it was in the midst of a recession. I lived at the New Britain YMCA for $12 a week, held down a full-time factory job, and worked at a local gas station nights and weekends. This was my routine, virtually unbroken for two solid years. Why? I was determined to buy a gas station of my own.
When I was 20 years old I rented an old gas station from my boss, and my dreams began to take wing. The way I looked at it, the only thing that could prevent me from succeeding in business was a lack of determination—and I had plenty of that. Each day I would purchase a New York Times and a Wall Street Journal. Now remember, reading wasn’t one of my strong suits, so when I came across a word I didn’t know, I would simply ask one of my customers. I devoured any reading material I could get my hands on regarding succeeding in business. I poured over the biographies of John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, studying their habits and applying them to my own miniature world of business.
At the age of 22, I bought my first gas station. I worked day and night, still living at the YMCA, and barely spending a nickel on anything but the basics. Eventually my little station was selling the highest volume in the state. Over the years that followed, I was able to buy more gas stations and other businesses, as well. I also was diligent about making worthy investments.
Mine may seem like an incredibly large gift to some people, but let me remind you of the story of the widow’s mite. In God’s eyes her gift was worth more than all the others, for she gave all that she had. I thank the Lord for showing me what tremendous joy there is in giving.
I was once a little boy who slept and ate and played in the Klingberg Children’s Home on the top of the hill. I walked down the same hill to public school, where I felt like a failure most of the time. Now, when I drive up this hill, I see a school where children will be given every opportunity to succeed. A wise investment, if you ask me.
In tribute to Mr. Hill’s generosity and desire to pass on a legacy which inspires our students, our school is known as
The Raymond Hill School