Peter Proal Hill, resident of Brunswick and Bailey Island, former longtime resident of Washington, D.C., died Saturday, May 20, in Brunswick. He was born Oct. 4, 1926, in Concord, Massachusetts, son of George and Ruth (Harris) Hill.
Peter was a reporter for the Concord Journal and later The Washington Post before joining the faculty of George Washington University, where he earned his doctorate and, for the next 40 years, taught American history with a specialty in Franco-American diplomatic history. A popular professor who did not seek popularity, he was “tough but fair.” In the late 1960s he served as the student faculty liaison during the Vietnam War protests. Near the end of his career, he served as the dean of George Washington’s School of Public and International Affairs (now the Elliot School).
He published four scholarly works: “William Vans Murray, Federalist Diplomat,” “French Perceptions of the Early American Republic,” “Napoleon’s Troublesome Americans,” and — at the age of 78 — “Joel Barlow: American Diplomat and Nation Builder.”
Nearly every one of his summers from the 1930s onward was spent on Bailey Island, crossing Will’s Gut by ferry in the days before the Cribstone Bridge was built. For at least three decades he could be found sailing — and bailing — his Turnabout to Turnip, Great Mark and Haskell Islands. His enduring love for Bailey Island found full expression in his chairmanship of the board of directors of the Bailey Island Association, whose history he chronicled in pamphlet form and whose annual business meeting was the culmination of a summer’s worth of work.
Peter was predeceased by his wife of 50-plus years, Barbara R. Hill, whom he referred to as “my dearest friend,” a phrase he borrowed from John Adams, who used it to describe his wife, Abigail. Like John and Abigail, Peter and Barbara were each other’s one true love.
Survivors include his son, George A. Hill, of Brunswick; his granddaughter, Glennis Hill, of Boston, Massachusetts; his beloved sister, Sara “Sal” Friedlander, of Hudson, Wisconsin; brother-in-law, Rolf Rykken, of Washington, D.C.; sister-in-law, Debby Rykken, of Aurora, Colorado; and numerous devoted nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.
A celebration of Peter’s life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Peter Hill’s name to Mid Coast Senior Health Services, 123 Medical Center Drive, Brunswick, ME 04011; Maine Family Planning, P.O. Box 587, Augusta, ME 04332-0587; and George Washington University, Development and Alumni Relations, 1922 F St., NW, Suite 202, Washington, DC 20052.