A bitter twist of irony

Published 10:57 pm Friday, October 24, 2014

Virginia Marie Hill was proud of the career from which she had retired before moving to Suffolk. She often carried newspaper clippings and other mementos with her, and it wasn’t unusual for her — upon meeting someone new — to haul out those clippings and spend a few minutes telling them about the things she had accomplished while working as a police investigator in Philadelphia.

In most people, such eagerness to share about themselves can easily come across as pride or arrogance. In the case of Virginia Hill, however, there was something more to it than simple pride. Even in the midst of describing honors she had received for solving some of Philadelphia’s most troubling missing persons cases, she projected a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to have done the work she did there.

Virginia Hill was a gift from heaven for the families whose troubled minds she was able to soothe during her 25-year tenure of service as a transit officer and investigator. She was assigned to the Juvenile Aid Division in 1981, where she investigated all juvenile crimes but developed a strong reputation as a missing children investigator.

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It was in that division that she found her niche. During her time there, eight of the city’s 12 longest-running missing-child mysteries were solved, she told this newspaper in 2005. Even when solving those mysteries didn’t mean returning a living child to his parents, the peace and closure her discoveries about the cases brought those parents were blessings of their own.

“Those kids were mine just as surely as if I’d given birth to them,” she said in another interview in 2003. “I cared for them, because I’d talked with their families and I had grown to know them. It feels good to find a missing child, but it also makes you feel sad. They should not have died so young. They should have had a life.”

After a career devoted to uncovering the secrets of violent crimes, it’s a bitter twist of irony that Virginia Hill should have been lost to such a violent act as the shooting in the midst of a robbery that took her life last Saturday morning.

She would be justifiably proud, though, in the knowledge that so many of her colleagues from Philadelphia will be at her funeral in Suffolk today to honor her. And she would likely find comfort in the knowledge that the full weight and strength of another police force here in Suffolk has been devoted to solving the mystery behind her own death and bringing to justice the persons responsible for it.