3/3/2013 3:09:00 PM Couple quietly bolstered good causes
Photo courtesy of the estate of Mary and Clayton Hill
Mary and Clayton Hill's estate funded a Coos Bay pregnancy resource center update.
COOS BAY — A medical clinic that aids pregnant women but refuses to perform or refer out for abortions was able to modernize its offices, thanks to a bequest from a Catholic couple who wanted children but were unable to have their own.
Mary Hill died in 2007, followed by husband Clayton in 2011.
Members of Holy Name Parish in Coquille and Holy Redeemer in North Bend, the Hills were not fabulously wealthy, but were frugal. In addition to a gift to help educate seminarians, their will provided $77,000 to renovate Coos County Pregnancy Resource Center.
Clayton, a gentle man with an innocent nature, retreaded tires for a living. Mary taught at the Catholic school in Coos Bay. When it closed, she taught at public schools in the area.
"They were very gentle, very quiet, very spiritual," says Mary Griffin, a longtime family friend and a member of St. Monica Parish in Coos Bay. Griffin came to know the Hills via a prayer group.
"It was their belief that everything they had belonged to God and was a gift from God," Griffin says. "They wanted to give back."
Backers of the pregnancy resource center purchased a former insurance office in 2005 and had it paid off by 2008. But the building was not set up for intimate medical exams, including ultrasound imaging. The number of rooms needed to be doubled, because of high demand. The place lacked security features.
To fix all the problems, the board began planning a renovation and fund campaign.
Madge Osborn, executive director of the pregnancy resource center, had laid out blueprints on a table one day when Griffin came calling. Griffin had been named executor of the Hills' estate and when she saw the drawings, handed Osborn a note pledging the $77,000.
"Do you think this will cover it?" Griffin asked a stunned director.
"It's an incredible amount," Osborn says. "I was just overwhelmed."
The Hills had been supporters of the center since it opened. Not long after Mary died, Osborn offered Clayton a personal tour. He and Mary were never ones to come to big events like open houses and thank-you dinners.
"They were very humble," Osborn says.
Now, the building is not only expanded to meet demand, but is accessible to people with disabilities. The center keeps 150 to 200 appointments per month. Each year, it offers about 600 pregnancy tests.
Osborn has commissioned a plaque to honor the Hills for their contribution.
"It's been a blessing to us and our clients," she says. "They feel the peace and warmth in a professional environment."
The Hills funded pro-life programs across the nation and locally, including a billboard at the south end of Coos Bay. At the same time, they helped homeless people who happened by. Even after friends warned Clayton against being conned, he would dig deep into his pocket. He once gave a family $100 on the spot.
The Hills were godparents the son of Sharon Hennick, a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bandon. To mark the occasion, Mary baked the boy a cake in the shape of a train.
"They loved children," Hennick says. "They felt life was so precious." Hennick says the couple reminded her of Simeon and Anna, the faithful elders who waited in the temple to see the Messiah and marveled when Jesus arrived.