“We will not say that he is dead. We will cherish the conviction that he lives glorified by the sacrifice he made for you and me and all mankind.”
A special thanks to Mica Marriott for all of her research and time involved in compiling this story.
Who was LeRoy Hill?
American Legion Post #19 was chartered in 1921 in the name and memory of Leroy Hill. As soon as you enter the Legion’s door a large portrait of Leroy Hill is seen on the wall to your right. The black and white picture is of a young handsome man dressed in WWI Army dress uniform with a wide brimmed hat.
Leroy Hill was born May 7th 1894 to John William and Anne Marie Hill. He was the second of six children, five boys, and one girl. A younger brother, Ralph, died when only 6 months old. The Hill family farm was located northeast of what was then Gardner’s small town. Currently, NAPA Auto Parts, Gambinos Pizza, and the houses behind to the north, including the Plank residence are sitting on the grounds which once were the Hill farm.
Leroy Hill attended Gardner Elementary school, and then part of Gardner High School, but did not graduate. Only an eighth grade education was required by law and high school was a luxury in those days, especially for a farm boy.
“Roy,” called by his friends and family, was a quiet and studious home buddy, whom his parents depended on very much.
The day before his twenty-third birthday he traveled to Manhattan, Kansas with seven other local young men and volunteered for WWI on May 6th 1917. After physicals were conducted, only six were accepted. Manford Eaton, Harold Sebring, George McCreary, James Shean, Wiley Skinner, and Leroy Hill.
The U.S. Military shipped the young men to Fort Logan, Colorado, then onto Fort Bliss, Texas for training. Two months later the Gardner boys came through town on a train headed for New York, and stopped at the Santa Fe Depot to say their final farewells. After reaching Syracuse, New York they had additional training and spent the rest of the summer of 1917 there. They were separated into different regiments, and Hill concluded his training at Pine Camp, about one-hundred miles north of Syracuse.
The 15th Field Artillery Regiment, nickname the “Indian Heads” left the United States on December 11th 1917, and sailed on board the USS Adriatic for Liverpool, England. The Regiment landed at Le Harve, France in February of 1918. By June 1st 1918, the regiment occupied positions northwest of Chateau-Thierry fighting the Germans.
Back home in Gardner, Kansas on Thursday, June 20th, John and Anne Hill
received a telegram from the War Department, stating their son Roy, had been killed on the battle field near Chateau-Thierry, France on June 7th 1918. He was twenty-four years and one month old.
Army PFC Leroy Hill was Gardner’s first casualty of WWI. Three years later, Friday, August 5th 1921, Hill’s body finally returned home to Gardner on the 9:37am train. The train was greeted by many Gardner citizens, and the Guard of Honor from the American Legion. As Leroy’s flag draped casket was carried off the train onto the depot platform and over to the waiting hearse, his father standing by Mrs. Hill said, “Mother, he’s home at last.”
The Legion men along with a long procession of automobiles accompanied the body to the Hill family home. Leroy’s casket remained at his parent’s home until the funeral on Sunday afternoon, August 7th, 1921 at Westminster Hall, present day location of the
First Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall on Shawnee Street. Hill’s funeral procession consisted of more than two hundred automobiles, many people came from nearby towns to attend the funeral. When the front of the procession had reached Gardner Cemetery, the end was still being joined by motor cars in town. The Masons conducted graveside services and taps was sounded along with the customary volleys shot over the grave.
Published after the funeral in the Gardner Gazette on August 11th 1921,
concerning Hill’s death and legacy, “We will not say that he is dead. We will cherish the conviction that he lives glorified by the sacrifice he made for you and me and all mankind.”
Leroy Hill’s grave is located on the east side of Gardner Cemetery with his family’s plot Leroy’s older and younger brothers, Earl and Raymond Hill also fought during WWI in France, though both returned home safely.
Written by Mica Marriott
September 26th 2008