GUNNISON—Last week, a beloved young man in the Gunnison community passed away after years of living through health difficulties.
Benjamin Jackson “Jacko” Hill, 19, died from atypical spinal meningioma, a type of tumor-disease that impairs body functionality, on the afternoon of Monday, May 10 at his home with family and loved ones.
“For six years he battled this disease through countless surgeries and hospital stays, always keeping his fighting spirit alive,” says Andy Hill, Jackson’s uncle. “Jackson was a hero. Kind words, a smoothing smile, a passion for life and an unwavering fight were his superpowers. He inspired everyone around him. He healed broken hearts and made people better.”
During the journey through the disease, which he began as an adolescent, Jackson befriended others going through some of the same difficulties and was close with doctors and caretakers.
Support for Jackson and the Hill family has been strong over the years in the Gunnison Valley community and beyond.
In the spring of 2020, “Jacko” graduated from Gunnison Valley High School, where he played varsity basketball under his father, Ben Hill, the head coach, and was selected to the all-state team in his junior year. He also played baseball and ran track and cross country.
In 2019, legendary University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self invited him to speak to the Jayhawks team. Jackson met the players, including his favorite one, Devon Dotson, who now plays for the Chicago Bulls.“Jackson created a lasting legacy that will continue on. To know him, and to love him, was to know life and love it,” Hill said. “He never backed down from anything. He was fearless in every sense of the word.”
Last year, a large committee of volunteers organized an auction for Jackson’s benefit. Dan Dalley, owner of Lazy D Pawn and the chair of the committee, estimated that over 1,000 people attended.
“Seeing our small community’s big response made me feel proud and grateful to live in such a wonderful place,” Dalley said at the time.
During his final days, Jackson got visits from loved ones. A mailbox was set up for notes to him and the Hill family. At the funeral on Monday, Ben Hill said his last days were “absolutely amazing,” and Jackson was “at peace.”
On Tuesday, May 11, the day after his passing, students at Gunnison Valley High School wore “Sunday best” attire in his honor. The next evening, a large crowd came to the Hills’ backyard and shined lights.
Visitation services were held Sunday and Monday at the Gunnison Stake Center, with the funeral following the second service.
Family members and friends spoke at the funeral. Memories shared included Jackson’s love for sports, kindness and perseverance.
In tributes, some of those who spoke said, “He was the best friend a guy could ask for,” and “He embodies the definition of Christ-like love.”