Buried Truth: The saga of Pete Hill (epilogue)

Pete Hill’s gravesite marker.

The event at Cooperstown was splendid. Only one part of the puzzle remained a mystery: Where was Pete Hill buried?

It had been 59 years since his death. The search had never lacked dedication or diligence. Many had engaged in the hunt for Hill’s burial site, but perhaps none more diligently than Dr. Jeremy Krock, a pediatric anesthesiologist from Peoria, Ill. and founder of the Negro Leagues Grave Marker Project. Hill’s death certificate provided a wealth of data, including a statement that the body had been shipped to Chicago for burial, but there the trail ran cold.

Funeral homes are not required to keep records indefinitely and storage certainly becomes an issue. After some time, Hill’s records, perhaps containing the needed clues such as who received the body in Chicago, were destroyed.

Pete’s son Kenneth Hill was alive when his father passed away and was a member of a small Catholic congregation in Gary, Ind., not far from the city of Chicago. In 2009, the local priest was contacted but to no avail.

The records of the most obvious cemeteries in the Chicago area were examined, particularly those where other baseball greats were laid to rest. There was no gravesite for John Preston “Pete” Hill.

Hope was making its exit. The consensus was that Pete’s gravesite was one of those obliterated by an outrageous act of greed and immorality. It had been discovered that sections of burial grounds in a Chicago cemetery had been ravaged. The grounds were dug, bodies removed, and the plots were resold. It is not clear what became of the remains of those unfortunate souls, but it was the consensus that Pete Hill was a victim of this heinous crime.

With the recent celebrations at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the resurgence of Pete Hill’s story, Dr. Krock found the mystery of Hill’s final resting place haunting him yet again. One evening after watching the movie “Cadillac Records,” the story of Chicago’s Chess Records label, Krock got an idea.

“I started searching on the Internet to see where these great blues players are buried,” Krock said. “Most are in the places we have been: Burr Oak, Restvale, Lincoln, Mount Glenwood, etc. One of the main characters, Little Walter, was buried in a Roman Catholic cemetery, [so] I decided to refocus our attention on some other less obvious cemeteries.”

John Preston “Pete” Hill was discovered in an unmarked grave at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Alsip, Ill. about 10 miles southwest of Chicago.

Hill’s son, the late Kenneth Hill, had purchased three plots in Alsip’s Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, but only his father is buried there. The other two plots remain empty.

The Negro Leagues Grave Marker Project, in collaboration with the Hill family, placed a lovely marker at the gravesite. Ron Hill of Pittsburgh, the most vocal advocate of chronicling the heritage of his ancestor, said: “Now, his family can finally rest in peace.”

Previously published in the Orange County Review July 5, 2018

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