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Tigard High School marching band pulls off a surprise

Marion Hill's family arranges a street concert for the WWII veteran's 94th birthday


by: BARBARA SHERMAN - PERFORMANCE ON OAKTREE LANE - About half of the Tigard High School marching band, led by director Jim Irving (left), showed up in Summerfield to play 'Happy Birthday' and some patriotic songs outside the home of Army Air Corps veteran Marion Hill on Jan. 18 at the request of his family.The Tigard High School marching band made a bit of a detour from its usual performance schedule Saturday, Jan. 18, when it performed on what is normally a quiet street in Summerfield.

The band plays at games, assemblies and parades, but that day it was invited to help celebrate the birthday of Marion Hill, a World War II veteran who was turning 94.

Included in the band's repertoire was "Happy Birthday" (twice!) and "Wild Blue Yonder," the Air Force theme song because Marion served in the Army Air Corps.

Marion is a big fan of the THS marching band, and his daughter-in-law Joanne Hill emailed band director Jim Irving a few days before Marion's birthday asking if the band could play "Happy Birthday" plus some patriotic songs.

"This is something we don't normally do, but it felt right," said Irving after the band had finished playing. "I asked the kids if they would be available, and they were excited to do it. We're very happy to give back to a veteran, and I'm very pleased with the turnout.

"We put this together in two days. I gave the kids the music ahead of time, and we had a 10-minute practice before we left the school."

About three dozen musicians, who made up about half of the full band complement, walked to Marion's home on Oaktree Lane and gathered around the corner from his house before starting to play and walk to his driveway.

A Hill family member went into the house and told Marion, "Someone's here to see you."

A stunned Marion walked out with his son Steve and sat down in a chair in the driveway to enjoy the concert in his honor. "I'm overwhelmed," Marion said.

Steve commented, "We thought about five kids would come, and we would have been happy with that. We thought we should tell the neighbors so they would know what was going on, and they came up with the idea of serving cookies and punch to the band kids."

by: BARBARA SHERMAN - SPECIAL DAY - Laura Cox (left), the mom of a THS band member, introduces WWII veteran Marion Hill to her daughter Nelle, who wanted to meet him and wish him a happy birthday while band members enjoyed cookies and lemonade supplied by nieghbors on Hill's driveway.Indeed, a table was set up on the driveway loaded with platters of cookies and gallons of lemonade, which the kids enjoyed after they finished playing.

"Dad has been supportive of Tigard High School and some of the kids in particular," Steve said. "He has stayed in touch with some of them, especially those who went on to the University of Oregon, where he graduated."

Steve seemed a little overwhelmed by the turnout too, adding, "This is way beyond what we expected."

A crowd of neighbors gathered to hear the band perform, and following the concert, they were invited to join the family inside for birthday cake.

A few days later, Marion was still digesting the turn of events and admitted that his family had really pulled one over on him.

"I thought we were going to go to my granddaughter's house because in the past Beth has always organized my birthday parties," he said. "I didn't have a clue. It turned out to be my son and daughter-in-law who planned it and were very cagey - it was a well-kept secret."

Marion said he appreciated that Irving and all the band kids took the time to honor him.

"I was very pleased with the turnout of all the band members," he said. "I was very humbled. Gee whiz - it was above and beyond what I ever could have asked for to have such a special day. I was so overwhelmed and pleased.

"I just can't help but admire the kids in the band and the entire music program at Tigard High. It was so nice of Jim Irving to go along with the request. It was a fantastic, super day, and I thought it was neat that the neighbors set up the table with food for the kids to show their appreciation."

Marion added, "It was just wonderful. I'm still in awe."

During Marion's tour of duty during WWII, he was hit by gunfire shot from German anti-aircraft Messerschmitts while stationed on the front lines in Metz, France. After the war, he became a chemist, working on weapons that served as deterrents during the Cold War and earning a number of patents.

He and his wife Susan were married for 52 years.