Ken Hill left this earth on November 19, 2020, after fighting a courageous battle that took him too soon. He was born in Denver, Colorado, to Donald and Lyda Hill on January 11, 1941. His youth was spent in Denver until his family moved to Littleton, Colorado, where he graduated high school in 1958. He attended the University of Denver, studying Hotel and Restaurant Management before attending the University of Colorado for Political Science and Economics.
While in college he had the opportunity to spend a summer working for the USGS surveying and mapping the wilds of Idaho. He began that summer of 1959 out of Yellow Pine, Idaho, traveling by horseback into the Idaho Primitive Area, falling in love with Idaho, packing mules and gathering many great stories to share.
After college he worked as the Management Trainee at Gates Rubber Company where he met Diane Hardesty; they fell in love and married on February 7, 1970. They made Denver their home while he worked as the Director of Government Claims Division for Colorado Blue Cross and Blue Shield. They shared a love of skiing during those long Colorado winters.
Despite his fondness for Colorado, his earlier experiences and love of Idaho were pulling him North where he and Diane traveled often in search of a different life. They found that life in North Fork, Idaho, along the Main Salmon River, when the two of them, along with their partner Don Harman, purchased the North Fork Store/Cafe/Motel/RV Park and Post Office in June of 1976. According to Ken, this choice involved a bit of serendipity. Their car broke down on a Sunday after everything had closed, but with help from the locals, he was able to get their automobile up and running. He repaid that kindness to this community time after time.
Many changes were made over the next 32 years: they enlarged the store; a new post office was built for the community of North Fork; hotel rooms were modified; and the campground was expanded. Their restaurant, always bustling with locals and other diners from surrounding areas, including Montana, was famous for having the best meals around. It was a regular for many, especially for the Sunday specials. It became the place to stop—either before or after a river trip on the Salmon River. Eventually they branched out and purchased the Rustic Inn across the highway, which also became a popular place to enjoy a cold drink and local music.
After the passing of his wife and partner, Ken sold the North Fork Store and moved up river to Salmon, Idaho, in 2008, where he bought a house up on the Bar Hill. Not slowing down in the least, he took over management of the local Salmon Health and Fitness Center where he and his dog, Misty were often seen. Sitting idle was not easy for Ken and he was actively involved in numerous non-profit organizations and local government within his beloved community of Salmon.
Since 2009, he was an active Board member of the Lemhi County Humane Society, where he offered financial advice, handled every aspect of maintenance and construction needs for the Animal Shelter, Odd Fellows Hall, and Rags & Wags Thrift store, as well as bi-weekly transportation of cardboard recycling.
He served as a Salmon City Councilman from 2011, was re-elected three times, and was in his fourth four-year term. In 2018 fellow council members voted him into the role of Council President. Ken worked tirelessly as the city representative on the Salmon Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and the County Emergency Operations Committee.
Ken joined the Board of Directors of the Lemhi Regional Land Trust in 2015 as the Treasurer and served on the Executive Committee. His financial advice and guidance for their investments set the Land Trust on a path of organizational sustainability. In addition, Ken was a founding member of the Land Trust’s Tonsmeire Eddy Legacy Giving Circle. As with all of the organizations he supported, he always provided auction items to the land trust fundraisers, sponsorship's, and, of course, provided the wine.
Hoping that every age group could enjoy and understand this beautiful valley, he enthusiastically supported the Salmon School Garden. He loved the fact that the program got kids outside and taught them how to grow their own food. Just before his passing, he gave a generous donation that is going to help the school garden program hire a contractor to perform the upgrade and heating of the high tunnel greenhouse.
Ken was actively involved in the Salmon Arts Council, and he was instrumental in his support for the arts—from serving as a trustee to supporting countless Arts Council events from Blues & Brews, Shakespeare in the Park, Living Voices, Piatigorsky, and more. Many of these events occurred only because of his time, financial support, and, of course, his art and wine donations. Even after stepping down as a trustee, he still attended meetings and helped out.
Ken was a tremendous supporter of the Lemhi County Historical Society, and his assistance was vital to their mission to preserve, exhibit, and interpret Lemhi County’s cultural and historical heritage. He gave a monthly donation to the museum to cover utilities at the old library building while they raised the money to purchase it. In fact, without his financial contributions to purchase fund, it would have taken much longer for the historical society to achieve their goal. His bright and kind face was a welcome sight at luncheons and programs. He was unfailingly supportive of their ideas, plans, and successes.
He was an enthusiastic supporter of River Discovery whose main focus is providing once-in-a-lifetime experiences for cancer survivors out on our gorgeous Idaho rivers.
His passionate support of the Whitewater Therapeutic Recreational Riding Arena began long before he moved to Salmon where his generous donations and active participation in fundraisers took place, including the Salmon Marathon. He raised his hand often to place the high bid at many auctions.
In 2016 Ken stepped forward and purchased a small tract of private land from the Benedict Estate located between two Main Street businesses, which is now known as History Park. This small park serves as a tribute to the generations of people who settled and worked in the Lemhi Valley. He then turned over the property deed to Salmon City in 2017. It was another generous donation of the many he gave to our community.
Ken also served on the 2L Trails committee providing recommendations for future development of a regional recreational trail system in Lemhi County.
Since 2007, Ken’s baritone voice could be heard in the Salmon Community Choir each spring and at holiday music events hosted for the community.
Ken loved to cook, garden, collect fine wines, walk his dog every day, and attend most local events that hosted a fundraising auction where he would lightheartedly elevate bids thereby raising funds for a local charity or non-profit.
He held many memberships and supported many local groups: Salmon Valley Stewardship, Salmon Kiwanis Club, Salmon Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows local organization. He was a member of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, National Rifle Association, and annually attended the Salmon Select Horse and Mule sale taking great pride in the Calcutta event at the Shady Nook Inn.
Ken was preceded in death by his loving wife Diane, his parents, sister DeAnn Szyfer and his beloved four-legged companion, Misty. He is survived by his brother Ron Hill (Jeannette) of Rapid City, South Dakota; nieces Suzanne Zimmerman (Alan) of Platte City, Missouri, and Tiffany Weinmeister (Brad) of Bayfield, Colorado, and nephew Paul Hill of Parkville, Missouri, as well as his dearest friend, Patti Schwind and her sweet dog, Echo of Salmon, Idaho, and many friends of Salmon, North Fork, and Idaho.
Garden City Funeral Home has been entrusted with arrangements, and he and Misty will be scattered together overlooking the Salmon River of North Fork, Idaho.
There are many that feel an immense emptiness within the Salmon community with the passing of this modest and generous man—a generosity that will never be forgotten. His smile, wink, and chuckle and ever-ready willingness to help, will echo on in our memories.
A celebration of his life will be hosted along the Main Salmon River next year, when we can all gather, honor this amazing man, share stories, and set free his wine cellar collection. Until then, please raise a glass of wine, whiskey, or a martini in his honor and to his exceptional generosity. Please consider a donation to one of Ken’s favorite organizations; River Discovery, WTRRA, Salmon Animal Shelter, Lemhi County Historical Society, or Salmon Arts Council.