Services Saturday For Grace Hill, Former WCET-TV Program Director

Dec 12, 2017

A memorial service for Grace Hill, former WCET-TV program director, will be 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, at St Ignatius Loyola Church in Monfort Heights.

Visitation begins at 11 a.m. at the church, 5222 N. Bend Road, next to the Interstate 74 interchange. She will be buried in Spring Grove Cemetery.

Original post Tuesday, Dec. 12: She was the face of WCET-TV pledge drives for decades.

Grace Hill, who died Saturday Dec. 9, was known by viewers as the perpetually upbeat white-haired woman who asked them to support the station until her retirement in 2009, after 47 years.

What viewers likely didn't know was that Hill oversaw the programming that aired on WCET-TV, especially the wide variety of local programs in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, when the station produced a lot of local documentaries and some national entertainment shows.

Erich Kunzel's national "Cincinnati Pops Holiday" specials, Lilias Folan's yoga series, Joe Nuxhall's interviews with Dennis Janson and the weekly "Focus" public affairs shows were produced during her tenure.

Grace Hill with Joe Nuxhall and Jack Dominic, former WCET-TV executive vice president.
Credit WCET-TV

The list of her specials is impressive: "Powel Crosley Jr. and the 20th Century" (1988); Kathy Wade's "JazzStruck"(1989); "Keep America Singing" with championship barbershop quartets (1994); "Because They Were Jews: Cincinnati Survivors Remember the Holocaust" (1995); "Safe at Home: Crosley Field and the Reds" (1995); "Time Out: Talk Radio Unplugged" with NPR's Scott Simon (1996); "Cincinnati Reflections" (1997); "Zinzinnati Reflections" (1999); "Bravo Paavo! The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra" (2001); "Cincinnati Reflections III: The War Years –Life At Home" (2001); "Music Hall: Cincinnati Finds Its Voice" (2005); and "Cincinnati Parks: Emeralds in the Crown" (2009).

Full disclosure here: She asked me in 2007 to interview WLW-AM's Gary Burbank for a four-part series that aired in 2007 when he left radio. She called me again before retiring in 2009 for help crossing an item off her bucket list, asking if I would interview Nick Clooney about his career. (She had long hoped George Clooney would interview his dad, but settled for me.) The five-part "Clooney on Clooney" aired in 2010.

"It is not an overstatement to say she had her fingerprints on most every locally produced CET program from the early '70s through her retirement," ," says Jack Dominic, former Channel 48 station manager, who now runs the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting in West Chester Township.

Grace Hill appeared on every WCET-TV pledge drive.
Credit WCET-TV

"She was a wonderful dedicated woman who really took the job of finding good programs seriously. She screened thousands of programs, and was often a source of great support and advice for local budding producers," Dominic says.

"Her face on CET was perhaps the most recognized of all local TV faces.  She was kind, strong, pretty, smart, funny and competent at a time when many women were not recognized as such for the latter," he says.

Hill "is credited with modernizing CET's Programming Department, leading the charge for CET to create and showcase on-demand videos, embracing the concept of multiple digital channels and pioneering membership drives not just in Cincinnati, but for PBS stations across the country," says the station's Monday statement about her career.

"Grace was well known, well respected and very well liked as a colleague.  She really was part of the generation that created public television.  She will be missed as a colleague and as a friend," said David Fogarty, CET president.

Grace Hill chats with WKRC-TV's Jeff Hirsh (left) and WCET-TV staffer Andy Dahmann.
Credit WCET-TV

Hill also respected the viewer. "She was instrumental in fighting off censorship be it from the right or left.  She trusted and respected the audience," Dominic says.

Hill started in 1962 as the receptionist at WCET-TV, then in WLWT-TV's old "Mount Olympus" studios under the Channel 5 TV tower at 2222 Chickasaw Street, Fairview Heights. The station moved to the Crosley Telecommunications Center on Central Parkway in 1976.

Before staffing cutbacks in the 1990s, WCET-TV produced local specials in-house. When Wade's "JazzStruck" aired in 1989, Hill told me: "Many of the other stations have to freelance their work. We have the talented people on staff here."

Grace Hill with Wayne Godwin, former WCET-TV general manager.
Credit WCET-TV

Among her many awards was a Silver Circle from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Science for 25 years (or more) of distinguished service in television. "Cincinnati Reflections," hosted by Nick Clooney and produced by Joyce Wise Kamen, received two regional Emmys and two national Telly Awards.

Hill was preceded in death by her husband, John Hill, the film editor at WKRC-TV (Channel 12). When I get information about services, I'll add to this post.