Nancy Hillas

LONG VALLEY, N.J.—Nancy Hogeman Hillas died suddenly on Sunday, August 25, 2019, at her home.  She was 90.

Nancy Elizabeth Hogeman was born in East Orange, N.J. on May 4, 1929.  Nancy was raised in Madison, N.J. and attended Madison High School and St. Mary’s Hall (now Doane Academy) in Burlington, N.J.  She received her bachelor’s degree in 1951 from Mt. Holyoke College.

After graduating, she enjoyed an adventurous life as a single woman in New York City, working as a salesperson at B. Altman & Co., a purchasing agent at the Museum of Modern Art, a continuity supervisor at WABC-TV, and a reader at McCall’s Magazine before meeting the love of her life, James R. Hillas, Jr., in 1961.  The couple married and moved to Long Valley, while he practiced law in Morristown, N.J. In 1969, they purchased a contemporary home overlooking the valley. Surrounded by woods and views, the house was affectionately known as Toad Hall, where Nancy was blessed to live for 50 years until her passing.

After her children were grown, Nancy worked at Epstein’s department store in Morristown, A.M. Best Co. in Oldwick, N.J. and Bell Atlantic Mobile (now Verizon) in Bedminster, N.J.  When Nancy and her husband retired, they took a long-planned trip through Canada and Alaska and traveled abroad to visit family in Rome, Prague and South Africa. Although she retained her love of New York City and its cultural attractions, Nancy was deeply committed to her life in Long Valley.  She was a member of the Long Valley Woman’s Club and volunteered in various roles at the Washington Township Public Library. As a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Gladstone, N.J., she served on the Parish Life Guild and Altar Guild, driving parishioners to medical appointments and volunteering in the church’s soup kitchen ministry until well into her 80s.

After her husband’s passing in 2007, Nancy focused on her volunteer activities, including helping to run the monthly movie nights at the library, taking walks in the neighborhood, working the New York Times crossword puzzles with her beloved cat at her side, and reading the Times and New Yorker cover to cover, a habit she was able to continue until her last day.  She was keenly interested in current events and remained fiercely independent with a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humor. Her generous spirit and reputation among her friends and relatives will never be forgotten. Without fail, birthday and celebration cards with her distinctive handwriting would arrive in the mailbox to brighten the recipient’s day. Equal to her love of arts and culture was her appreciation for nature.  She loved her annual family trips to Cape Cod, where she enjoyed swimming in Nantucket Sound, birdwatching on the marsh and beaches, and eating lobster. 

Nancy was predeceased by her beloved older brother, Robert Ledget Hogeman, Jr., who died while serving his country at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, and her devoted husband in 2007.

She is survived by her two sons, Matthew M. Hillas of Long Valley; James M. Hillas of Portland, Ore. and his wife, Lisa; a grandson, Jack Rybczyk of Greenfield, Mass.; two nephews, Kenneth M. Hillas, Jr. of Penobscot, Me. and William Speeler of Orlando, Fla.; two nieces, Katherine (Hillas) Bussman of Vienna, Va. and Catherine (Speeler) Kelly of Cairo, Ga.; and numerous cousins, grand-nephews and grand-nieces, all of whom she adored.

The family will celebrate Nancy’s life at a private service in October.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Nancy’s memory may be made to the Washington Township Public Library in Long Valley or St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison.