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By Jesse Utz 

A gem in the Coulee: Richard Hill


Most of you probably have no idea who this is. Some USBR employees know him, but more importantly a handful of high school kids know him too. Recently Mr. Hill came to Lake Roosevelt and spoke some truth into the ears of our young adults with a positive but straightforward message, hoping that his words would shake some loose from the confines of their own situations.

Like me about 10 years ago, when you first meet Rich, you are intimidated. He is a huge man, with muscles that bulge like a professional wrestler’s. Then he speaks, and with a voice very similar to “The Rock.” All I can say is, if he did not have your attention before, now he does. But it doesn’t take long into the conversation before you realize that there is much more brains here than brawn.

Mr. Hill is retired Air Force, retired federal corrections officer, body builder, former security personnel, and still working in Procurement with USBR. But his message is about overcoming your current circumstance, knowing what you want to do and going after it. It is also about respect. Earning it and giving it. He gave these kids a peek into the realistic world of prison life and what it takes to survive in that cutthroat environment. As he spoke, the kids listened. He kept their focus for the whole 45 minutes. With a peek into his past in Oakland, complete with the struggles of growing up with just a mom full-time, he spoke of making up his mind early in life to be in the Air Force and do everything he had to do to make that dream come true. He talked of the friends who did not make it off the streets and of those who did that are in prison. He spoke of the students taking their lives into their own hands.

Richard spoke to these young men and women from his heart. He spoke with vigor and passion, much like the work he has put into his own body. He spoke words that he had wished someone had spoken to him at this very age. The few teachers who heard his message made statements afterward such as “Everyone needs to hear this message,” and they are right. Rich hopefully spoke some seeds of change into the lives of those who are lost and on the wrong path. As a matter of fact, I know he did. One young man came up to me after Rich was done and said, “That was what I needed — a wake-up call.” Maybe that’s what we all need sometimes.

You see, Rich is not from here, hasn’t even been here all that long. But he has a heart for the kids of Coulee Country. His message was for striving to be the best you that you can be, a message of respecting yourself first and getting on the right path and take advantage of the time you have.

Rich is a Gem in the Coulee. Thank you, Mr. Hill, for taking time out of your life and your family’s life to share some wisdom with the kids of Lake Roosevelt. We are honored to have you as a community member and we are truly blessed to have a man of your integrity walking the streets of Coulee Country.

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