Essie Velna Hill Hines was born on the first day of Spring, March 21, 1925 at Challacombe Ranch in eastern Leon County, Texas to William Hampton “Bill” Hill and Eunice Maud Hogan Hill. She joined her sister, Winona, in the family.
The Hills moved to Centerville in 1931when Bill was elected County Clerk. They lived in a house on Hwy 75 near the present Centerville High School. In 1932, a son, Billy Charles Hill was born, completing the Hill family. When Essie started school, she remembered walking past the home of John T. and Harry Gresham. She said that there was a big oak tree in front of their house and that John T. was always up in it. She also had to walk past a gas station every day, and she dreaded it because the owner would always tease her about her boyfriends.
Essie and Winona joined the First Methodist Church of Centerville on December 7, 1941. She remembered coming home afterwards and sitting with her father listening to the news of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. As the war progressed, she and Winona saw most of the young men of the County leave for the services. Winona worked at the draft board. Essie, needing dance partners, started teaching some of the younger boys, such as Joe Richard Long, to dance. Essie and her girlfriends would dress up and take pinup photos of each other to send to the soldiers and sailors from Centerville.
Essie loved singing, dancing, and the movies. She sold tickets at the Pix Theater. She was pretty and popular . She “squeaked” clarinet in the band. When the first marching band was formed, Essie was made drum major, probably to limit her time on the clarinet.
In July, 1943, tragedy struck the Hill family. Eunice was in the hospital at Palestine following gall bladder surgery. Bill and Winona were driving to visit her when they were hit by a moving van at Bliss Creek between Centerville and Buffalo. They were both killed in the accident, leaving 18 year old Essie to make the funeral arrangements and care for 11 year old Billy Charles.
The good people of Centerville rallied around Essie, Billy Charles, and their widowed mother and helped them through their crisis.
Essie took over Winona’s job at the Draft Board. Essie recalled walking the young inductees from the Draft Office to the bus station to send them to Houston for their physical. She said that many of the boys had never been out of Leon County and were filled with trepidation at what lay ahead.
Eunice taught herself to type and began working at the courthouse. She took in boarders to help make ends meet.
One of the most colorful of their borders was a man named J. Frank Dalton. Uncle Frank, as Essie called him, was a lecturer and raconteur. Tall and with a military air, he claimed to have been one of Quantrill’s Raiders. In later years, he would also claim to be Jesse James. His fellow travelers were oil lease hounds known as Mr. Houk and a woman named Lamar O’Bannon.
Essie remembered summer evenings in Centerville when everyone would sleep with their windows open. A group of local men would walk around town with their guitars, fiddles and banjos and sit on front porches and serenade while she drifted off to sleep.
In 1944, Essie met J.D. “Chili” Hines of Normangee on a double date. A spark was lit that lasted for decades. They married in May of 1946 and were together until Chili’s passing in 1998.
In the 1950’s Essie opened “Essie’s Shop” lady’s boutique on the northeast corner of the square. Eunice operated the Centerville Flower Shop in the same building.
Essie was a gifted artist. She was proficient at floral design, oil painting, costume and fashion design, upholstery, stained glass, cake decorating and any other medium that captured her fancy.
She served on the board of Southeast Water Supply, and was chairman of the Centerville Housing and Urban Development board for many years. Essie was a regular congregant at the Dairy Queen 4:00 p.m. Kaffeeklatsch.
Essie passed from this life on June 5, 2021 at her home in Centerville, age 96 years and 76 days. She was preceded in death by her father, Bill, and sister, Winona in 1943; her husband, Chili in 1998; her mother, Eunice in 2001; her brother, Billy Charles and his wife Julia in 2020.
Essie is survived by: Son, David, and his wife, Kay, Granddaughter, Amanda Hines Bernay, and her husband, David, Granddaughter, Mia Hines Hoffman, and her husband, Kegan, Niece, Libby Hill Cornett, and her husband, Larry, Nephew, Steve Hill, and his wife, Helen, Niece, Patricia McAfee, and her husband, Jim, Nephew, John Murphy, Grandnephew, Jason Cornett, and his wife, Shannon, Grandniece, Stacy Hill Slott, and her husband, Michael, Grandnephew, Jeffrey Cornett, and his wife, Stacey, Grandnephew, Justin Hill, and his wife, Krystal.
Thank you to all of her friends and caregivers who have been so helpful to Essie: Mary Ann Brown, Shelby Brown, Linda Warfield, Randy Robacker, Earl Hill Moore, Lisa Lee, Erin Stone, Aileen Danielle, Johnny Knight, Noal Ray Goolsby, Helen Proctor, Amber Perkins, Tara Pittman, Raymond Dunn, Eric Durr, Casey Dodds, Vicki Johnson, Renee Scott, Lawrence Johnson
All the good people of Centerville, Texas. She loved you deeply!
A service was held 10 A.M., Tuesday, June 8, 2021 at Walters Funeral Home. Rev. Patricia Lund officiated the service, and interment followed in Centerville Cemetery.
Arrangements were under the direction of Walters Funeral Home, Centerville, Texas.