STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) — "Kind-hearted, warm and loving" were the words Maria Hill-Harrison used when describing her older brother, Ron Hill.
Ron Hill, 1975 Buffalo Gap High School grad. | Credit: Maria Hill-Harrison
Despite being 12 years apart, Hill-Harrison said the two grew to be very close.
"We had a very tight relationship. We really had a close bond. We lost our father in 2000 and lost our mother in 2014, and since then, that's all we had was each other, so we really did have a very close relationship," Hill-Harrison said.
The 63-year-old Buffalo Gap graduate lost his life earlier this week due to COVID-19.
Hill-Harrison said her brother had traveled by plane at the beginning of the month. She said he flew from Tennessee to D.C., and when he got home, he reached out to his oldest daughter, telling her he wasn't feeling good.
"And then on Thursday, which was the 12th, the day before my birthday. I'll never forget it. He reached out to me," Hill-Harrison said.
She said Hill just thought his asthma was acting up, but by March 14, Hill was rushed to the emergency room because he couldn't breathe. He was admitted that day and moved to ICU the following day.
Hill was tested for coronavirus on March 15, and put on a ventilator on March 17 because he was having such a hard time breathing.
"He texted me and he's like, 'I'm not going to lie. I'm scared.' I said, 'Don't be scared, we're here. Just continue to fight." He says, 'I am, but this thing is wearing me out. I'm just tired," Hill-Harrison said.
Hill-Harrison said her brother would have good days, and he would have bad days. By March 21, she said Hill was completely relying on the ventilator to breathe.
Doctors had been treating Hill as if he had coronavirus as they awaited the test results to come back. On March 21, it was confirmed that Hill was infected with COVID-19.
HIll's daughters went to see him in Georgia on Monday, March 23, but they were not able to go inside the room with Hill.
"They had to look behind the glass. They couldn't go into the room with him or anything like that," Hill-Harrison said.
And by the next night, Hill-Harrison got a phone call that her brother had passed.
"I was like, oh, you got this. Don't worry about it. You'll pull through because he always had. So, I was not thinking it was COVID-19," Hill-Harrison said. "I wasn't thinking that my brother would have to be on a ventilator, and I was definitely not thinking that it was a possibility that he would lose his life... I was thinking he'll be sick, he'll go to the hospital, they'll treat him and hill come home, but he never came home."
Hill-Harrison said it was heartbreaking to think that her brother had to die alone because no one could go inside his room to touch him and talk with him one-on-one. She said her family could not get closure because of that.
However, Hill-Harrison said it was heartwarming to know how much he was loved by his family and community and the impacts that he left on those who knew him.
Once his students at Mount Vernon School heard about what Hill was going through, they poured out their love and support for their history teacher and coach.
"They posted so many videos of him just in the classroom, just laughing and joking, them hugging him, he hugging them," Hill-Harrison said. "He wasn't a counselor, but he talked to those kids like he was a counselor... That community loved him."
And the community here in the Shenandoah Valley that knew Hill growing up also showed their support.
"The Buffalo Gap Reunion page, they've been reaching out, posting pictures of when he was in high school and everything, just saying how good of a person he was, how loving and kind-hearted, and liked to make you smile. He was that person," Hill-Harrison said.
Because Hill did touch so many lives, there will be two memorials for him once coronavirus restrictions are lifted. There will be one in Georgia and one here in the Valley.
The school he taught at is also setting up a virtual prayer for Hill.
"Can't believe that he's gone because he was such a strong individual. Everybody just thought he'll bounce back... We just didn't think it was his time to go, but I guess God had other plans for him," Hill-Harrison said.
She said she wants to stress to the community how important it is to take the coronavirus seriously. She said it's hard to understand how serious it is until it happens to someone in your family.