ANAHEIM — Msgr. John Joseph Hill, whose youth included stints as a college football player and a mechanical engineer before he became a priest and rose to monsignor, died Friday at the age of 84.
Kim Schultz, Hill's grandniece, said he had been ill with heart problems for two months and had been hospitalized recently. He died of heart failure at his niece's home.
Hill was most recently associate pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Fullerton. He retired from that post in 1985, but he was still very much involved, spending time with the church's young people and visiting parishioners who were ill, said Father Richard C. Kennedy.
"He had a tremendous rapport with older people and young children," Kennedy said. "He was very warm and friendly. When he gave you a hug, there was a lot of strength and warmth there."
As a student at Notre Dame University, Hill played football under famed coach Knute Rockne, Schultz said. He earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Notre Dame in 1930 and went on to graduate studies elsewhere, eventually obtaining a Ph.D.
But Hill later chose a different direction and entered the seminary. He was ordained in Springfield, Mass., in June, 1938, and then became a priest at Epiphany Catholic Church in El Monte, Schultz said.
Hill came to St. Mary's in 1964. In 1981, Pope John Paul II awarded him the Prelate of Honor, which made him a monsignor.
Hill is survived by his brother, Peter Hill, and his sister, Nora Hill, both of Worcester, Mass.
A viewing will be on Monday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at McAulay & Wallace in Fullerton. The rosary will be said Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at St. Mary's in Fullerton. The funeral service will be Wednesday at 10 a.m. at St. Mary's, followed by graveside services at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange.