TONASKET – When Patti and George Hill heard their names called out by Mayor Patrick Plumb at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner in January as the 2012 Grand Marshals of the Tonasket Founders Day parade, Patti thought the mayor was trying to pull a fast one.
“I work with Patrick at the (North Valley) hospital,” she said. “We’re used to him, so I really did think he was joking at first.”
He wasn’t, and the unassuming couple took the stage to receive the recognition that the Chamber’s selection committee unanimously felt they deserved.
“I looked around at the people sitting there that night, and there were so many that were deserving,” Patti said. “It really is pretty humbling. It’s a pretty emotional thing, because we’re just country people.”
“This is such a nice town,” George said. “A lot of people really step up to help out in a lot of ways. I just like to try to help the community where I can.”
Patti is a Tonasket native, and other than a few years in Spokane at college has lived here most of her life. George moved here with his brother and two friends from Colorado, and the two met shortly after Patti moved back to Tonasket.
“I missed the small town,” Patti said. “I moved back and it’s a good thing I did, because that’s when I met George. He had two little girls, ages three and five, and they needed someone to take care of them, and he needed someone to take care of him.
“It’s worked out pretty well. After 33 years we’re still married. We really balance each other.”
The Hills’ daughters and their families unfortunately won’t be able to attend the parade. Both are military families, one stationed in North Carolina, the other in Texas.
George has worked a number of jobs in the area, including at Hodgson Tractor, Hedlund Chevrolet, owned Superior Auto Parts for a time, and now loads train cars.
He also, as Plumb famously put it at the banquet, “is one of the few people that is involved both with the FFA and Green Okanogan. He pulls the community together.”
“The way the economy is,” George said, “it all needs to work together to keep things going.”
Patti has worked at NVH for the past two years after working in Omak for the previous 26 years.
“I haven’t been here (in Tonasket) like George has,” she says. “People didn’t even know I existed.”
George has spent a lot of time working with the FFA on tractor restoration, and the Hills have been assisting Green Okanogan in trying to get its recycling center up and running.
“We’re able to help out with a location to make it happen,” Patti said. “It’s a tough thing to get pulled together, between the money and all the regulations. But we’d really like to see it happen.”
The Hills also purchased one of the Chief Tonasket warehouses, where they are working to display a collection of old farm and orchard equipment that they are collecting.
“We still have a lot of organizing to do,” Patti said. “But a lot of the kids and grandkids didn’t ever farm with some of the old things that are antiques now. It’s one reason George likes to teach tractor restoration — a lot of the kids in the country never get that kind of hands-on experience.”
As for Saturday’s parade, the Hills hope to be riding a tractor, and then get back to doing what they’ve always done.
“We just want to keep finding what we can do for the community,” George said.
“We are very appreciative,” Patti said.