CLAYTON -- A longtime circle of support, the Clayton Women's Club had to tighten the circle recently and band together more closely after losing its president unexpectedly.
Chris Hill, 45, died October 31. She became the president of the Women's Club in May.
"I knew Chris as a daughter," said Margaret Lee, one of the club’s two vice presidents.
Hill was married to Joe Hill. She had one son, Caleb, and one daughter, Emma. She had battled colon cancer for the past two years, but believed it to be gone, said former president Diane Carroll. Her death came on without warning.
On Wednesday, the women began their meeting with a memorial service for Chris. With heavy hearts, they each held a balloon and stood outside the Women's Center. "As Christ ascended into heaven," said Pastor Bill Beyer, the women let the balloons lift into the air and float away, letting go of the tragic event, as a way to move forward.
Hill had served as president of the Women's Club for five months, and already she had made a lasting difference.
"She helped start our reading program," said Carroll. When Carroll was the president of the Women's Club, Hill was the vice president for two years. Before moving to Clayton six years ago when her husband accepted a job at Novo Nordisk, Hill worked as a school teacher. During her time as vice president, she introduced the idea of giving out individual packages to children which each had a book and a reading chart that they passed out at local elementary schools.
"She had a unique ability to involve everyone," said Belle Allen, the club's chaplain.
Hill's personality left a lasting impression on each of the women.
She would say, "Hello beautiful" to everyone, according to Carroll.
Working to improve the club, Hill went to a convention for Women's Club leaders in Raleigh and brought back fresh ideas.
"She figured out how to run the auction differently," said Carroll, of the 'Taste of Carolina Cuisine' event held recently. She said the event would have gone better had Hill been there, but they still managed to raise $22,000.
As the group grapples with questions of why, how, and why now, chaplain Belle Allen delivered a message of hope to the women, citing Ecclesiastes, "There is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to uproot…."
It is still uncertain who will take on Hill's role as president, a big leadership position to fill, but the women of the group know that their beloved friend, president, and daughter would want them to move forward and continue making a huge impact as a group.