The Volunteer — Bill Hillman
by Neil McQuarrie
Bill Hillman is a true son of the prairie, the fourth generation of his
family to live on the original homestead in western Manitoba.
Bill’s great-grandfather settled there in 1878, having
travelled across the open plains in a wagon along the Carlton Trail. It
was a long and arduous trip from Winnipeg since there was no railroad to
ease travel to the area.
Bill grew up
on the farm, learning that there was work to be done by young and old alike.
While attending school in Strathclair he joined the local Air Cadet squadron.
This experience, combined with the family stories of his father and uncles
serving in World War II (three of his uncles, all members of Bomber Command,
perished) fostered in him a reverence for the sacrifice they made.
After high school Bill went to college and returned to teach at Strathclair
Collegiate. He had attended Brandon University (at that time Brandon College)
where he earned Bachelor's degrees in Science and Education,
and later a Master of Education degree. It is the measure of the man that,
while he was in school and then teaching full time, and working on his
university studies, he found time to meet and court (over several years)
a lovely and lively young woman from the nearby town of Newdale.
He and Sue-On were married in 1966. She, like Bill, became a teacher
and, again like Bill, a musician, performing as a singer, keyboardist and
drummer. It was their mutual love of music and performing that attracted
Bill and Sue-On to each other and it has nurtured their life for half a
century. Over the years their musical collaboration led to a frenetic life
as their three children arrived, their teaching responsibilities kept them
at school all week long and weekends were often devoted to touring and
performing. Summers were especially busy because then it was possible to
concentrate on their music writing, recording and travelling to gigs. Over
the years their country, rock 'n' roll and original songs have taken them
through Canada, the United States and England.
Bill is an inveterate collector. The Hillman home in Brandon is the
repository for his videotapes, movie DVDs and records. Then there are the
books, comics and magazines. Much of the furniture is of Chinese origin,
gathered during their trips to the Far East. Most of the Hillman interests
are shared on their giant website: www.hillmanweb.com.
He was a professor in the Faculty of Education at Brandon University,
responsible for courses in Computer Integration and Journalism when, in
2008, health concerns slowed him down and he retired – but only from teaching!
It was his interest in computers, research and writing, combined with his
awareness of his family's wartime service that led him to offer to design
and operate the museum's Internet Web Site.
The Job — Webmaster
“Drop in for a visit, sometime.”
“How can I do that? I live in Caracas, for goodness sake!”
“Do you have a computer? Are you connected to the Internet?”
“Good. Then click away!
Our address is www.airmuseum.ca
Enjoy your tour.”
It is as easy
as that for folks around the world to take a virtual tour of the Commonwealth
Air Training Plan Museum. The tour has been created by Bill Hillman, our
webmaster, and leads the visitor through the various exhibits on display
at the museum. In recent years, reflecting the advances in digital photography,
he has rephotographed the memorabilia at higher resolution to enhance the
experience of the visitor.
html || www.airmuseum.ca/homebase.html
After visitors have completed the tour they can explore the extensive
collection of pictures and written accounts Bill has put up on the site.
They include copies of World War II station magazines
that were published by the bases during the war, and back copies of “Short
Bursts”, the newsletter of the ex-air gunners organization. Sadly,
with the passage of time and the deaths of so many of its members, the
organization is now defunct, but this record of their contribution lives
Bill has created in-depth and illustrated memoirs of several veterans.
He adds monthly accounts of events at the museum through pictures and text,
and a web-based magazine which Bill describes as “an eclectic assortment
of items gleaned from the Internet, media and contributing readers”. All
of this material, including back issues, and the current edition, are displayed
Bill is a member of the committee overseeing the museum's current major
fund raising effort, the RCAF War Memorial Project: a black granite
wall 300 feet in length inscribed with the names of over 19,000 fatalities,
with a larger-than-life bronze statue representing the fallen. Through
the website he provides information about this impressive undertaking.
The website is indeed eclectic, and extensive. Its creation and on-going
operation require, as Bill notes, "some technical knowledge, as well as
much editing, writing, research, searching for information and photo taking."
He also provides links from the museum site to others which he creates
and manages. The result is that he receives letters and inquiries from
all around the world, many seeking information which he endeavours to supply.
All in all, Bill is a busy man.
So what does he do in his free time? Nothing. He doesn't have any!