Lindsay Hill, 1979-2011
Ten years ago this month I walked into 1515 West Lane Avenue and caught a glimpse of the woman who would change my life forever.
It was a bright May afternoon and I was at the end of my freshman year at The Ohio State University. Looking for an internship, a friend had hooked me up with an interview at the late Ed Johnson’s Agri Broadcast Network (ABN). Ed and Paul Harvey were my radio heroes, so the chance to work at Ed’s legendary network was catnip for a farm kid from Southern Ohio.
She had this skirt, a green and blue tartan she’d pair with a cute sweater, and I’ll never forget the first time I saw her… I didn’t know her name, but I knew I wanted to learn it as soon as possible. I should have been thinking about my interview, but all I could think about was those long legs…
I was smitten to say the least.
Tasked with taking a rank amateur whose only experience in radio was listening a few hours a week and turning him into a functioning studio professional, she spent three or four mornings with me each week after I started at ABN. Mornings, by the way, started at 5 a.m., and for most of us, involved rolling out of bed and throwing on some wrinkled sweats and stumbling to the office.
Not for her… I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was the only woman in the company who came to the studio at 5 a.m. in heels and full makeup. Meanwhile, I had ferreted out her favorite coffee (Tim Horton’s) and bagel, and made it a habit to arrive with both in hand each morning we were scheduled together. She didn’t realize I didn’t do that for every girl assigned to training me.
After a few weeks, and with a little goosing from broadcaster Dale Minyo, I bullied her into going out with me. Our first date was a casual affair: I ate WAY too much food at Joe’s Crab Shack, we ran into my best friend Jesse Buxton in the parking lot, and then we headed over to Club Dance (The Big Easy or Screamin’ Willie’s depending on the year) to watch other people line dance.
And then we sat in the car and talked until 4:30 in the morning.
It’s a wonder there was ever a second date.
Our first date was June 22nd, 2001. I told her I loved her on September 15th. I asked her to be my wife on November 26th, 2002. We were married on December 4th, 2004. We started a radio network on October 3rd, 2005. We bought ABN, the company where our romance began, on February 26th, 2007.
I’ve struggled most of the day with what to say about Lindsay. Others will write the details of her tragic death. Some will write what all should know: that she is the greatest professional in our business today. Her talent and skill with a microphone and on camera are peerless. She learned from the best, and I know in my heart that she and EJ shared a heartwarming reunion this morning.
What I want you to know is deeper than what others can write.
Lindsay was a sucker for Professional Bull Riding and country music. She loved George Strait, rarely missed an Ohio State basketball game, and would never admit that she was actually 6 feet tall.
She loved her Labradors, especially our special child Dino, and was the picture of grace under pressure when he sliced his leg open crashing through the glass door to attack Rizzy, Lindsay’s feline companion. I, meanwhile, came apart at the seams because I thought our pup was going to bleed out on the back porch.
When confronted with being apart the summer I worked at Ohio FFA Camp Muskingum, she was so upset that she promptly replaced me… with said kitten. We drove around Columbus, literally circumnavigating the entire outer belt scouring pet shelters and stores. Wracked with tears over not finding the perfect cat after visiting at least 19 shops and shelters, she threw in the towel. I, however, insisted we visit the last place on the list… The first cat we saw was the one.
We used to say that I drew the pictures and she colored them in. I like to think I’m a “big thinker,” but she was the brains of the operation. When it came to any of the things in our life or business that required any sort of attention to detail, Lindsay was the go-to, without question. She juggled more balls and balanced more spinning plates than any three women should have to at any one time, and she did it astonishingly well.
It’s hard to say which she loved more: chocolate or coffee.
She wanted nothing more than to be like EJ when she grew up. When we took over the network, the highest compliment she received was from those close friends who could tell her Ed would be proud.
Her laugh was infectious, and her smile was dazzling. She had the most beautiful big brown eyes, and she always made fun of me because I couldn’t seem to get the hang of wearing contact lenses.
When we first started dating, we had a running joke that I was “Mr. Invisible Man” because she didn’t want people at work to know we were dating… you know, in case it didn’t work out. I remember meeting her Mom and Dad for the first time… The Ohio State Fair, in the hog barn, day of the junior market hog show. I’m introduced, and assuming they’ve heard of me, am immediately nervous about meeting “the parents.”
Little did I know that they hadn’t heard of me… She had neglected to mention we’d been dating all summer. We had a big laugh over that one.
I’ll never forget our trip to Kelley’s Island that September, and taking our “Abercrombie Model” pictures at the Glacial Grooves. We were pretty hot.
People used to ask us how we could possibly work together. We scratched our heads because we couldn’t possibly understand what it would be like not to work together. Spending 23 hours a day with one another seemed perfectly normal.
It wasn’t, of course. Over the years of our marriage, work got in the way. In the beginning, our identities were so wrapped up in one another. And then, they were so wrapped up in work. And then, we weren’t sure of our identities at all.
It is true that Lindsay and I spent the last year of our marriage separated. It wasn’t necessarily public knowledge, but eventually things went “FBO” (“Facebook Official”), and people knew. I moved back to Columbus, and eventually left the radio network. People wondered why I left radio, but it was a fairly simple reason… It broke my heart to be that near the light every day, and still be in the dark.
I joked more than once over the past six months that we were speaking more now than we had in the past year and a half. We had almost become again what we once were: friends. When I heard the news this morning, I felt like I was losing my wife all over again. I came to realize something, though. She was never mine to lose. Lindsay was – and is – bigger than that.
She was bigger than the kind and loving things so many in our profession and industry will write today and over the next several days. She was bigger than any given radio station or broadcast. She was bigger than all the dates and trivia I’ve written in the preceding 1,261 words.
Lindsay Hill taught me how to broadcast. She taught me how to live. She taught me how to love.
For nearly ten years she was my best friend and constant companion. I loved her then, and I love her now. She is loved by countless friends and colleagues literally across the country, gauging by the flood and flurry of messages, emails, texts, calls and status updates written or sent in the past six hours.
Lindsay was the best in the business at interviewing little kids at county fairs. Earlier this month she called out the Secretary of Agriculture for interrupting her at the podium. She pulled it off while making the crowd laugh, and without making the Secretary lose face in front of the media. She could do that like no one else.
Her wit was sharp and she was always one step quicker than me in a debate. She was a brilliant mind, and a skilled orator. I had years of FFA public speaking under my belt; she had none. And yet, I was always in awe of her on stage because she was truly gifted. I could never quite pull off a speech or tell a joke the way she did.
We were always competitive, even though we always played for the same team. She always wanted to be the best, and sometimes we felt like we were the only competition worth worrying about.
She shopped at New York & Company because they had pants long enough for her… She would let me pick out outfits for her to try on, and occasionally actually buy one of them to boost my ego.
With the utmost grace and professional poise, she led one of the most fractious years in the history of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. With some of our friends and colleagues taking pot shots at her over trivial nonsense, she managed to stay above the fray. NAFB is better for having had her leadership, and infinitely worse without it now.
She loved farm broadcasting with the passion of the burning sun. Friends like Tom Brand, Don Wick, Mike Adams and a dozen more were her constant inspiration and the recipient of her ongoing admiration. They likely never knew how much they meant to her… but her NAFB family was one of the greatest sources of joy in her life, and the grief she received from some in the past six months was the cause of her greatest pain.
Did I mention her love of Buckeye basketball? Perennially perched half court with her Dad, Lowell (Lindsay was always Daddy’s Little Girl, although he may not realize just how much she adored him), she was convinced Coach Matta is completely clueless. Her series of blog posts “Whats The Matta?” inspired many a hilarious exchange with fellow hoops fan Colonel Johnny Regula.
Radio was her home for nearly ten years, but television was her calling. Watch the live broadcasts we hosted from the Ohio State Fair Sale of Champions the past four years, and you can see it… Getting tapped to be Agribusiness Director for AgDay and U.S. Farm Report was… unbelievable. And now, unbelievably tragic because she was where she truly belonged such a short time.
From the days of logging tape for EJ’s AgriCountry, Lindsay wanted nothing more than to follow in his footsteps and be on camera telling the story of agriculture. Hosting Ohio Farm Bureau’s Ohio Farm & Country was one of the highlights of our career together. She loved the show, and wanted nothing more than to see it grow.
I’ll always remember when she called to tell me she was going to South Bend to interview for the job at AgDay. Even though we hadn’t been “together” for almost a year, and even though we hadn’t worked together in months, we knew each other better than anyone else, and still called to talk shop and bounce ideas off one another.
She was like a kid at Christmas. I was never happier for anyone than the day she got the job. She deserved it richly, and deserved so much more.
Life has a way of giving you more than you deserve sometimes, and taking away the things you want the most. For me, Lindsay was both. I never deserved the time we had together, nor did I ever want to lose her, then or now.
I’ll never have the opportunity in this life to thank her for building my career, or for a decade of love, fun, friendship and family. She was taken too soon… For what, or why, we may never know.
I can’t help but take comfort in Jeremiah 29:11… “For I know the plans I have for you,” saith the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
In those words I find comfort and strength. I have no choice. I’m all cried out at the moment.
Lindsay Nicole Hill, born October 25th, 1979 was taken from so many May 19th, 2011. May she rest in the comfort of God’s loving arms, and may he grant each of us a comfort beyond understanding.
We love you Lindsay. Watch over us. We still need you.
Update: The Hill Family requests that those wishing to make contributions in Lindsay’s memory do so to The Lindsay Hill Memorial Fund (482151) at The Ohio State University Foundation, 1480 West Lane Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43221.