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North Minneapolis youth coach Robert F. Hill dies at 77

It meant something special to be placed on Robert Hill’s football team at North Commons Park. His children were known for their sharp uniforms, sideline discipline and sportsmanship.

Particularly unassuming “Coach Bobby” kept his expectations high and his voice low. His teams played hard because of an unwillingness to let him down.

Hill was born and raised in Minneapolis, emerging from early childhood tragedy, a lifelong advocate for youth development and family reunification. He died on his 77th birthday, February 23.

“He understood and knew how to work with kids, a lot of kids who didn’t have a lot of parental support or good situations at home,” said fellow youth coach Greg Owens. “Bobby developed some really great athletes, but he also saved a ton of kids who otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity.”

Hill was the third youngest of 10 children from a devout Catholic family. Both parents died of illness less than a year apart when Hill was in elementary school.

An older sister raised him through high school, when he was a boarder at the famous Father Flanagan’s Boys Town in Omaha. He was elected self-government “commissioner” of Boys Town and learned about basketball before graduating in 1965, at the height of the Vietnam War.

Hill was immediately drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. He received an honorable discharge three years later.

In 1970 Hill married Rosvlyn Ritchie. They were together 52 years, until the day of his death.

“It’s one of the toughest, most heartbreaking, toughest things I’ve ever had to go through in my life,” Rosvlyn said. “What a witty and kind individual he was. He was not just my spouse, but my friend, the father of my son.”

Hill worked at Clarus Inc., a machine shop now located in Fridley, for 12 years. He also served as a youth worker and community home supervisor for Catholic Charities’ St. Joseph’s Home for Children, a former orphanage that housed thousands of children in protective custody. After it closed in 2020, Hill drove a bus for Metro Transit. He belonged to the Martin J. Ruter garage in Brooklyn Center and enjoyed meeting people from different walks of life.

Linda Tate, Hill’s niece, remembers him as a master griller, a carpenter who created beautiful patio furniture and loved to take the family’s children fishing in his boat. There was always music playing in her aunt and uncle’s house. Hill, a guitarist, loved Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Bob Marley, the Rolling Stones and John Coltrane.

“He will be missed so much,” Tate said. “He was just a wonderful uncle. Everything you want from an uncle.”

Hill is survived by his wife Rosvlyn, his son Noah Benjamin Hill, his grandson Kyheem A. Jones-Hill, three great-grandsons, his brother David W. Hill and many other family members and friends.

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