Former El Campo resident and ag teacher D.D. Hill, who will be turning 97 on Aug. 20, was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, but is currently recovering at a nursing home in Hondo where he is in quarantine.
“He had a recent bout with COVID-19. He was at the Methodist hospital in San Antonio Saturday through Wednesday,” daughter Charlene Clarke wrote in an email to the Leader-News on Wednesday, July 29.
“I know people in El Campo still wonder about him and how he is doing. He is back at the nursing home in quarantine,” she said. “He is a the Community Care Center in Hondo and doing well.”
According to Clarke, he began having a fever on Saturday and tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Once in the ER in San Antonio, he responded really quickly to treatment,” she said. “He was joking with doctors and nurses by the first evening and had a sandwich. He was moved out of the ER when a room became available and then released yesterday at about 3 p.m. (Wednesday).”
Hill, a Pearl Harbor survivor, was the El Campo Chamber of Commerce’s 2007 Citizen of the Year. He served on the USS Dewey, which survived the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, but he saw many other men die that day as ships went down.
The Dewey was undergoing repair work along with most of its escort group and linked to a tender ship which was supplying electricity. He had been below decks studying for a certification test when the first bombs dropped.
As the attack came and men scrambled to action, the power overloaded and went out.
“We were in the dark, there was a lot of confusion and a lot of frustration,” Hill said in a past interview, but added they tried to fight back.
Here is the account of that day he shared with the El Campo Leader-News in an interview in 2008:
“I had a front row seat, but I was busy trying to get equipment ready to shoot,” he said. “I saw the smoke from the battleships and the planes with the rising sun over their wings.”
Dewey’s crew fired 1,300 .50-caliber rounds at the attacking planes, according to commanding officer A.J. Detzer’s action report. The commander thought his crew had brought down two of the attackers, although he wasn’t sure which gun to give credit to. Hill said he manned a gun, but didn’t think he’d hit anything.
Soon after the attack ended, the Dewey was sent out on patrol.
In an interview in 2015, Hill said he had never returned to Hawaii and had no plans to do so, adding he had no desire “to dig up old hurts.”
Hill believes remembering events like Pearl Harbor are very important and vital to American history.
“It should be remembered among the top remembrance events,” Hill said in 2015. “Ignoring events in history is distasteful to me. There are things that happened that, to me, are important.”
Hill grew up in the Valley. Lying about his age and taking his brother’s identity, he joined the Navy about a year and a half before Pearl Harbor. He was an 18-year-old machinist mate who served in the Navy for six years. He returned home to earn a degree from Texas A&M and came to Crescent and later El Campo to teach agriculture. Altogether, he taught ag for 34 years, 27 of those years at El Campo High School.
Hill later became one of the main organizers of the El Campo Special Friends program, a mentoring program to assist at-risk students, was active in the Boys & Girls Club and the Boy Scouts and was a member of the El Campo Masonic Lodge.
Those who want to wish Hill a happy birthday, may mail cards to the following address:
C/O Community Care Center of Hondo
2001 Ave. E
Hondo, TX 78861