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Catherine Hill Foundation

Catherine's Story (See gallery for story pictures)

Early on Friday morning, March 19, 1965, twin daughters were born to Gloria and Howard Hill in Morehead, Kentucky. Elizabeth was about to be born but somehow there were some complications and it was necessary to perform a Cesarean Section, so Catherine got to be born first. Elizabeth felt she was born first, but officially Catherine was first.

Howard was a music professor at Morehead State University in this small college town of less than 5,000 people. They named their new daughters, Catherine Mary and Elizabeth Anne. A year later the Hills added a son, Michael.

Both Howard and Gloria were accomplished musicians. Both had graduated from the renowned Julliard School of Music located in the heart of New York City. In 1969, Professor Hill left his position at Morehead State University and accepted a position at San Diego State College. He moved his family to a small home near the college. Gloria was quite an accomplished musician and played first violin for the San Diego Symphony for seventeen years. She also taught music studies part time at San Diego State College.

Attempts to pass the music genes to their daughters apparently failed. Although both girls would later play the piano and the violin, they hated it and they preferred to take ballet and jazz dance lessons. Catherine and Elizabeth attended Murdock and Briar Patch Elementary Schools. They attended Parkway Junior High before going to Grossmont High School where they graduated in 1983.

In high school, both girls had an interest in dance production and were involved in cheerleading. Elizabeth was the head JV cheerleader. Catherine made the varsity squad and was later followed by Elizabeth. Throughout their lives, one would seem to lead and the other would shortly follow.

After graduating from high school, Catherine and Elizabeth went to San Diego State University where their father was still a professor of music. Catherine earned her degree in Business Management and Elizabeth earned hers in Communications. Apparently Michael received the most music genes from his parents, playing the violin and the drums, but his forte was playing the bassoon with the San Diego Symphony as a substitute musician.

A sad event occurred in the girl's lives when their mother, Gloria, died of lung cancer in 1986. Both women had just turned 21 and their mother's death affected them considerably. Gloria Hill was the glue that held their family together. Without their mother Catherine, Elizabeth and Michael were left with a huge empty spot in their lives. Their mother was the emotional support of the family. Nevertheless, despite their tremendous loss, the Hill twins and Michael moved forward with their lives.

Soon after her college graduation, Catherine became a flight attendant with American Airlines and worked out of the Washington-Dulles airport in Washington, D.C. The job offered Catherine a chance to travel and see the world. Catheine's mantra was that she did not want a typical 9 to 5 office job. Elizabeth moved to Los Angeles where she worked for Nextel Communications. She later had an opportunity to transfer to Chicago where she helped to open the Nextel office there. Both women did extensive nationwide traveling due to their jobs.

Catherine began to work international flights and spent quite a bit of time traveling in South America. She became an American Airlines Ambassador and had the opportunity to meet and work with the United Nations and international dignitaries. Catherine took advantage of her flight benefits and spent a significant amount of time studying in Antigua, Guatemala where she became fluent in Spanish. She also traveled extensively in Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina and Brazil. Catherine was fascinated with the Latin culture and was intrigued with the South American lifestyle and sense of family.

Catherine was transferred and ended up following Elizabeth to Chicago where the sisters were reunited once again. Elizabeth landed a job as a National Account Manager with Sprint North Supply, a division of Sprint. Elizabeth longed to return to San Diego and was eventually transferred by Sprint back to San Diego in 1998. Elizabeth enjoyed her job but she knew that it was not what she wanted to do long term. She started looking for a job that was more meaningful and interesting.

Elizabeth became very interested in Law Enforcement about the same time that Catherine did. While working for Sprint, Elizabeth enrolled in a reserve police officer academy. Elizabeth managed to make it through the reserve academy while continuing to fly out of town for business meetings. Elizabeth graduated from the reserve academy in August of 1999 and was appointed a Reserve Deputy Sheriff for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department in March of 2000.

Catherine also found she had a strong desire to go into law enforcement, wanting to do something more fulfilling. Catherine was also very patriotic and believed in our country. She kept an American Flag on the wall above her bed. Catherine applied at several police agencies and was first accepted by the Border Patrol. So Catherine followed her sister into law enforcement and attended Session 419 of the United States Border Patrol Academy in Charleston, South Carolina. There, Catherine received the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center Physical Fitness Award (FLETC). Catherine was very physically fit and worked very hard to remain in shape. She liked to hike and participate in police track events.

On March 17, 2000, after several months of grueling training, Catherine graduated from the Border Patrol Academy. Elizabeth flew to Charleston for Catherine's graduation. Elizabeth wore her San Diego Deputy Sheriff's uniform and actually pinned Catherine's newly issued Border Patrol badge on her sister's uniform. In an accompanying photograph with this story, one can easily pick out Catherine, the smallest member of her class, among her fellow Border Patrol Agent graduates. Catherine then followed her sister back to San Diego where she assumed her patrol duties while stationed at the Border Patrol's Imperial Beach Station.

Elizabeth worked as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff until September of 2000, when she found that the traveling for her full time job had became too demanding and Elizabeth was forced to give up her reserve deputy position with the Sheriff's Department. Elizabeth was laid off due to reductions and downturns in the telecommunication industry so she began volunteering her spare time for the San Diego Police Department's gang unit.

Elizabeth applied for, and in March of 2002, after eight months of waiting, was hired as a Police Dispatcher for the San Diego Police Department. After 6 months of extensive training Elizabeth handled 911 emergency phone calls as part of her duties as a Police Dispatcher.

Catherine followed her sister's volunteerism and began volunteering her off-duty time working with young teens in the Border Patrol's Explorer Scout Post 1924. Eventually, Catherine became the head advisor. Catherine found working with young people to be very rewarding. Elizabeth and Catherine met with several explorer scouts weekly, either at the Imperial Beach station or the local Pizza Hut to conduct classes in essay writing.

Catherine also volunteered and was accepted to be a member of the Border Patrol's Peer Support Team. This is a very important collateral duty for any law enforcement professional. Law Enforcement is a very unique occupation where officers face life-threatening situations and have to make important life and death decisions everyday. Officers face immense stressors from a myriad of sources such as from their agency, their supervisors, the citizen they serve, their family, and the press. Catherine's job as a peer support member was to provide critical support to her fellow agents, whether it is a line of duty death, a shooting, an accidental death, an injury, or a vehicle accident.

In April, 2001, Catherine was sent across country to Jacksonville, Florida to comfort and assist fellow Border Patrol Agent Jason Panides' family, friends and fellow Agents when he was struck and killed by a truck in Texas while on duty. This would later prove to be ironic in nature. For her efforts and contributions to her fellow Border Patrol Agents, Catherine received a letter of commendation from Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Catherine also loved animals, all kinds of animals. Her personal moniker for her email account was anmalover. Catherine worked in the most southwest corner of the United States along the international border with Mexico. Patrolling along the beach one day, Catherine came across a couple of seal pups that apparently were abandoned by their mother. She made contacts with the California State Department of Fish and Game, county animal control, and finally Sea World in San Diego. All refused to respond believing that the seal pups would be all right if left alone. This was unacceptable to Catherine and she personally contacted and badgered Sea World officials until they finally agreed to come rescue the seal pups. By then it was dark and Catherine remained until Sea World personnel arrived. Sea World ended up naming one of the seal pups after her.

In July of 2002, Catherine went through training and became a counselor in the StandUp For Kids program in San Diego. She went out on the streets locating homeless kids in downtown San Diego and other outlying regions. She would give out hygiene supplies, snacks, and clean socks. Catherine also provided mentorship and encouraged kids to pursue their dreams. She also worked at the San Diego center where kids can get a hot meal, check their email, get new clothes, take a shower, wash their clothes, get counseling and assistance with education or other programs.

Catherine had enrolled in a Masters Degree program at the University of Phoenix and was very excited about pursuing an advanced degree in counseling and was planning to specialize in working with kids. She was to begin classes on Monday, October 28, 2002.

Early on Friday morning, October 25, 2002, United States Senior Border Patrol Agent Catherine Mary Hill was killed in a vehicle accident while patrolling the international border. She evidently was positioning her Border Patrol Jeep Wrangler on a bluff above an area she was assigned to watch, but she got too close to the edge and her Jeep fell down an embankment and rolled over, killing her instantly. Catherine was just 37 years old. Please see the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper articles and U.S. Border Patrol press release.

Her death greatly impacted those around her. According to statistics, thirteen homeless children die each day in the United States. Bubba, one of the homeless kids that Catherine worked with at StandUp For Kids said tearfully, "We expect to be burying our kids, not our counselors."

On Wednesday, October 30th, Catherine was remembered in a public service ceremony at the Spreckles Organ Pavilion in San Diego's Balboa Park. Hundreds of law enforcement officers from all over the country, friends, and family attended the service. Members of Catherine's Explorer Scout Post were all present as were fellow StandUp For Kids counselors and numerous homeless street kids. The Border Patrol's Horse Unit performed the traditional riderless horse ceremony and helicopters from the region's law enforcement agencies flew the "missing person" formation flyover. A particularly poignant moment in the ceremony was when the Border Patrol radio dispatch broadcasted Catherine's call sign (India 327) over their radio as if calling to her. There was a long silence and then the dispatcher announced "India 327 is 10-42" (which means "gone home"). Catherine was interned at El Camino Memorial Park in San Diego following a miles-long funeral procession of hundreds of police vehicles displaying their emergency lights.

The year 2002 was a rather tragic year for the Border Patrol as they were the only law enforcement agency in San Diego County that lost members. Both members were killed in vehicle accidents. First, Agent Roberto Duran was killed on May 6th, while on a special detail in Arizona and then Catherine was killed. At the end of the year, it was determined that Catherine was the only law enforcement officer killed in San Diego County in 2002 and the first female Border Patrol Agent ever killed in the region.

In November of 2002, Elizabeth gathered their mutual friends and Catherine's work colleagues and they collectively decided to hold a benefit in Catherine's honor and remembrance that would benefit StandUp For Kids. Education is a very important part of success and Elizabeth felt that the StandUp For Kids center in San Diego needed a classroom. The funds raised will be partially used to outfit a training classroom at the StandUp For Kids Center in Catherine's name. Kids will attend classes there and learn computer skills, basic education, and some basic skills such as how to interview and apply for a job. Some of the funds will provide scholarships, pay for books, or occupational education as well as help with the day-to-day operations of the center.

In January of 2003, Elizabeth followed her sister and completed her training and become a counselor at StandUp For Kids. On May 13, 2003, Elizabeth had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for the annual National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Services as guests of the Border Patrol. Border Patrol Peer Support Agents acted as their escorts and the highlight of their trip was meeting President George Bush. On July 10th, Elizabeth traveled to Washington State where the United States Department of Homeland Security commissioned a boat, the Catherine M. Hill, in Catherine's honor. The boat will be used to patrol the Columbia River and has the latest state-of-the-art equipment.

The efforts to hold a fundraising event in Catherine's honor resulted in Elizabeth establishing the Catherine Hill Foundation in May of 2003. Its purpose is to raise money and awareness for the causes that Catherine held close to her heart. Catherine had an extremely intense passion for friends, animals, kids and environmental issues. As president of the foundation, Elizabeth directed everyone's efforts into the foundation's two fund raising efforts, the Blue Angel Galas. The 2003 Blue Angel Gala at the Sheraton Harbor Island raised $18,000 and the 2004 Blue Angel Gala held at the Westgate Hotel raised $23,000 for a total of $41,000 donated to the San Diego chapter of StandUp For Kids.

Michael started his own company, Cypress Telecom, which specialized in fiber-optic splicing for large telecommunications companies. Michael's business was also hit by the reductions in the telecommunications and he works for a local San Diego company.

Professor Hill had reduced his teaching load and continued to work part time teaching music appreciation at San Diego State University until 2000 when he retired as a professor emeritus. He passed away on October 11th, 2006, playing tennis, his third love behind his children and music. Elizabeth, Catherine and Michael have a beautiful half-sister, Katy, who is 14 years old.

Elizabeth is currently a San Diego Hospice Volunteer. She assists critically ill patients and their families during the last six months of life. Like Catherine did right before she died, Elizabeth recently enrolled with the University of Phoenix to begin her master’s degree in counseling with the goal of continuing her work with hospice. Elizabeth's dream is to counsel adults and children who are grieving. She has also authored three books, Twin Souls and a childrens book, The Circle of Life and she just completed The Gift.