Saturday, November 24, 2007

DAVID HILLEN, 1941 - 2005


-by Heather Hillen, daughter of David Hillen

This intricately crafted coffin
seals tightly when closed;
on top - a slot for your picture
a thoughtful gift from a friend.

Each deposit seems a betrayal of you –
losing more of you
each time I open it
only to shut it again.

This beautiful pine box
encourages these thoughts,
enables me to write these words,
and my memories to escape from the box.

David James Hillen, 1941 - 2005, was born in Toronto where he attended Parkdale Public School, Parkdale Collegiate and graduated with a Master degree in History from the University of Toronto in 1965. David and his wife Janet soon traveled to Bolivia with the Baptist Mission Corps, where David taught English until returning to Ontario in 1969. David also taught English passionately, in Kitchener, Stoney Creek, and Mississauga until retiring in 1997.

David taught his students to believe in themselves and their ability to think creatively. A former student, musician Garnet Rogers spoke at his memorial service and said “David did nothing short of change my life”.

In addition to teaching, David wrote voraciously and his articles, poems, short stories and reviews have been published in numerous newspapers and anthologies. Living Downtown … familiarity breeds content which David co-wrote with his wife Janet was published in 2000. David’s book of poetry Even Our Shadows Dance was published in 2003.

Finally, David was a cherished family man who left his wife Janet and 4 children Heather, Andrew, Amanda and Stephen with teachings that are fundamental to who we are as people. He taught us to enjoy every moment as if it were our last, to love and respect all people all the time. He encouraged us to be fragile yet strong, courageous yet scared and that this is the essence of being human and it is ok. We miss him. Here are some poems by David.


When I watch television
time flits
quick and shadowy
like a midnight spectre.

When I read books time
deepens, becomes
slow and full
like the air after rain.

I plan to read lots and lots of books
live a long, luscious life
before getting off
this Gutenberg Galaxy.


Almost sorta’ mean

know haste is waste
learn to tease out some truth in a form of words
get the feelings right
remain, sometimes, steadfastly unsure

clear, clear, pure, wise
capable of surprise
never merely witty, one of the guys

bold, serious fun
record life on the run
witness to events before the first coffee and the night cap
and the night cap and the first coffee
expose themselves in public
sigh over dandelions
point to the still centre that does hold

persons among people
sharing being
creating unregretted reading

almost sorta’ nice.


Flowers of the fall
we weather into winter
death, nothing
at all.

the few
that knew us
mourn briefly if
at all.

Then they too
dry, blacken, fall
and there is nothing
at all.

Only inside is can we be
-the frost strikes
and was makes us nothing
at all.


Finite I am
inside time and space
god’s electric fence around the human race.

Finite is fine with me
allows me infinite possibility
a universe of places to go
whole nations of people to see
always changing – never the same
always becoming- never became.

Born I am
to be born again and again and again.


Blogger Andy Byers said...

I was a student of David Hillen's at Meadowvale Secondary School in 1984-1985 and 1986-1987. I learned a lot in his class; he encouraged me ceaselessly. I lost touch with him a year or two after I started university and I'm sorry now I didn't follow up with him more often. For the rest of my life I will remember and celebrate what he's given me.

8:28 PM  
Blogger lazysupper said...

I too was lucky enough to have Dave as a teacher (MSS 1991) for Creative Writing.

I didn't learn of his passing until last year, when I decided to look him up and finally get back in touch.

Out of all my teachers and professors, from kindergarten to grad school, he ranks among the top. Without question the most encouraging, and always the egalitarian, treating us as equals and peers.

1:40 AM  
Blogger Carlos Santiago said...

My Name is Carlos S Landaeta G. also a was a student of David Hillen´s in the Reekie College in Oruro-Bolivia. Now I live in Santiago-Chile, but I never forget him, because was my best teacher i will remember he´s given me. Never, never forget, God bless your family. Thank you DAVID for ever.

11:10 AM  
Blogger TotalD said...

At Saltfleet High school in Stoney Creek he used to insult me in class in front of the other students He was verbally and emotionally abusive . He was later fired from Saltfleet based on his abuse of kids and I ran into him , he was an utterly remorseless and arrogant prick. I have no words of praise. None. Perhaps he learned something and stopped being a mean person. I have no idea but the emotional scars he left me did not die with him. He should never have been allowed to teach, ever.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Susan Reid said...

My name is Susan Reid and I am now a PhD, full professor and teaching students as did my mentor, Mr. Hillen. I am currently writing my second textbook and as I paused to think about how I teach my students, I was thinking about the opportunities that I was provided at Saltfleet High School to do independent, contract English. I truly believe that having the opportunity to explore social justice issues as a teenager has inspired me to be such a passionate advocate for disenfranchised young people today. I was going to send him a note to this effect only to stumble upon this wonderful tribute. May his family know how much he meant to me and let it be a token of peace to you.

10:51 AM  
Blogger just jo said...

I was one of David Hillen's students at Meadowvale Secondary in the '80s. I think I took at least three, maybe four, of his courses because he encouraged me to write, think and feel like few other teachers did. He and Janet were surprise guests at my wedding in 1999 (invited by another of his former students). He was a fantastic teacher and human being.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Zaccary D. J. Sparx said...

Mr. Hillen was a fantastic teacher. I've never met anyone before or after that took the same approach to teaching English as he did, and it worked magnificently. I wish I kept in touch after graduating high school. He was the best. One of the few classes I looked forward to attending. He had a unique way of providing useful feedback (constructive criticism) and guiding students to explore the language. He really provoked thought and inspired.

2:35 PM  
Blogger TotalD said...


2:47 AM  

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