FRANK LIESER HILL
by Sheila Goldner and Steve Goldman
Frank Lieser Hill, partner of Sheila Goldner, died on June 2, 2020 at the age of 86. He had been ill for some time, having been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in November of 2016. When discovered, the cancer was also in his bones and lymph system. His oncologist in Los Angeles discovered that he also had Stage IV kidney disease. At one point, the cancer spread to his spine. He developed diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, arthritis, lumbar stenosis and, near the end, lost his appetite and was severely dehydrated. He had several bottles of supplements and medications that Sheila felt he should take with food, but he didn’t feel like eating. He also had Atrial Fibrillation.
Frank was born on March 21, 1934, his mother’s birthday, in New York. He grew up in Merrick on Long Island. He played sports with his friends in the neighborhood. His parents gave him very few rules: Get good grades in school and be home for dinner. He went to Hofstra University, majoring in Physics. He wasn’t too interested in it, however. After college, he went to work for the Post Office, sorting mail on the trains that were moving the mail from one point to another. The trains traveled up and down the east coast. He loved that job. He would work several days and get time off in lieu of overtime. A few times a year, he would get a three-week vacation. When the Post Office discontinued the mail trains, they put Frank in a regular Post Office. He hated it and left shortly thereafter. More recently, John Ulloth, a friend who stayed in the motel when they all went to the WTO Battle in Seattle, interviewed Frank about his work on the mail trains. After Frank quit the Post Office, he went to work as a dividend clerk for Bankers’ Trust in New York. Then, in 1979, he moved to Los Angeles. He intentionally left his television in New York. In Los Angeles, he continued being a dividend clerk for Bank of America. He was very good with money. Frank and Sheila only watched a couple of programs on television in the almost 38 years they were together.
Frank and Sheila met through two therapists who were having creative singles parties in their beautiful homes. Frank and Sheila were both working in downtown LA, Frank for Bank of America and Sheila for a law firm. She was a word processor for about 32 years until she retired in 2009.
They both participated in Landmark Education seminars. In 1982, Sheila participated in a Community Workshop in San Francisco. During the Community Workshop, the leader brought out a 10-day course for youth at risk. The law firm whom Sheila worked for gave her a special schedule so Sheila could fly to San Francisco every couple of weeks to participate. When Sheila took more time off than she had leave time for, the firm fired her. That day, Sheila walked over to Frank’s Bank of America office and invited him over for dinner. Shortly thereafter, Frank moved in. They lived together almost 38 years.
When Frank moved in, he and Sheila went running every morning, down to North Hollywood Park and back home, a little over a mile. They took Sandy, their Afghan-Shepherd. They would get up at 4:15 a.m. and do it, so Sheila could take a shower afterwards and get to work.
Frank got involved with RESULTS, a grass roots lobby for the end of hunger. Frank got Sheila to join and, after reading a book by Susan George, Sheila got very excited about being educated and started reading voraciously. Over the years, Frank would give Sheila articles to read and they bought lots of books. Sheila got active in RESULTS and went to Washington, DC for a few years for RESULTS’ International Conferences. RESULTS had some groups outside of the United States and many groups in the United States. Towards the end of each Conference, members of the US groups would visit their Congresspeople’s and Senators’ offices and members of the other groups would go to the World Bank; the purposes of those visits was to lobby in person. At home, people in the US groups would write their Congresspeople asking them to cosponsor different bills. When Sheila went to those Conferences, Frank would stay home and take care of the pets.
They subscribed to the Wall Street Journal for a while. There were many stacks of Wall Street Journals in their garage. One time, Sheila spotted an article on the front page saying that the Third World would suffer under the World Trade Organization. Sheila called the Wall Street Journal and found out that the article had been published in a magazine called Third World Economics. Eventually, they found Michelle Syverson, who became a good friend. Michelle started Sheila on another magazine, Third World Resurgence. Then, an organization called the International Forum on Globalization held a Teach In in New York. Sheila went and met Martin Khor and Vandana Shiva from the Third World Network. Eventually, Sheila got a letter from the Third World Network (TWN) in Malaysia, asking her to be a resource person for the TWN in the United States. Sheila gladly accepted. She found people who wanted to read Third World Resurgence and would mail the magazines out when TWN sent them to her.
Michelle eventually moved back to Saranac Lake, New York. When Frank went to visit her the first time, he had to climb some stairs to get up to her apartment. At the top of the stairs, there was a small dog, barking incessantly. His name was Henry. Frank grabbed a leash and took Henry for a walk. This was the beginning of a long friendship.
Michelle was on her wireless phone constantly. Eventually, she developed brain cancer. Frank became her caregiver, with instructions from the hospice team to administer morphine whenever the pain became too great. Sheila developed breast cancer in 2008. Michelle didn’t have too long. Frank rented a car and drove with Henry back to California.
Frank said Henry was a great trail dog. When he took him for a walk, Frank would let Henry off the leash. Henry would run into the woods and take a drink out of a lake, then run back and find Frank. In North Hollywood, Frank took Henry for walks. The neighbors got to know Henry.
Frank regretted not being able to take Henry for walks when they moved to Cathedral City. Frank tried once, but Henry was getting older and wasn’t too able to walk. He had kidney problems and died at the end of February, 2020. He was buried with Frank.
Frank was a loner. When they moved out to the desert in 2018, he and Sheila went out a lot, driving. When they came home, if there weren’t any messages on the answering machine, he was glad. He honestly admitted that he was addicted to the computer. The only use he had for Facebook was to play Scrabble with other people. And he got lots of e-mails with articles in them. He strove to read several articles every day to get caught up on his e-mail.
Frank and Sheila had several pets. A friend of Sheila’s gave her Sandy, the Afghan Shepherd. Frank used to take Sandy up to Mount Wilson for walks. One time, they had to get over some kind of a hole and Frank injured his right knee. It never healed and Frank and Sheila had to stop running every morning. When Sandy died, Sheila went to the pound and got a purebred cocker spaniel whom they named Pamina, from the Magic Flute opera by Mozart. Then, one night when Frank was walking Pamina on Burbank Boulevard, they found a Siberian Husky, whom they named Sarastro. Sarastro’s leg had been broken in two places. He looked at Frank pleadingly and Frank decided to keep him. Two homeless people gave them two cats, Laura and Carmilla. Sheila adopted two cats by e-mail, Chanel and Gia, whom Sheila still has. They got two cats from Sheila’s friend Barbara Catapano, with whom Sheila sang in the Camerata. One of the cats bonded fast to Frank, Socks. The other one, Mimi, keeps to herself, but she is coming out more. And Terrie Brady gave them Midnight, who also keeps to himself. Midnight lived in Frank’s closet for a while. He moves from there to a chair in the dining room. He’s in the dining room currently. Terrie found Midnight in a parking lot in Torrance, unprotected. She wanted to save him, so she gave him to Sheila and Frank.
Frank loved to hike. He joined a group in the San Fernando Valley and went hiking with those people.
Frank was very sensitive and loved to read. Both he and Sheila loved to eat out and would always bring a book or articles to read.
Frank was very practical and down to earth. He let Sheila live her life and supported her music. He was also very sensitive. Throughout his illness, he maintained that he was asymptomatic. With lung cancer, he never had trouble breathing. If something hurt, he would yell “OUCH”. He approved of Sheila and gave her immense room to be herself, something not too many people in her life had done.
Sheila sang with a few choirs, some of them church choirs. She got into the Camerata of Los Angeles, conducted by H. Vincent Mitzelfelt, M.D. Through a youth orchestra back east, the Camerata went to New York three times to perform in Carnegie Hall. Sheila went all three times and Frank stayed home. One of the times they went to Carnegie Hall, Sheila ventured out and met Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, and Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Laureate from Kenya. That, for Sheila, was almost more important than singing at Carnegie Hall!
Frank was very curious. When he had his first heart attack around 1999, he got to watch his angioplasty on television. He found it very interesting.
When Frank was concentrating on something, sometimes Sheila would say something and it would scare Frank because it broke his concentration. He applied that same concentration to his work at the banks and because of it, he made very few mistakes, if any.
He was a great cook, cooking with recipes and collecting cook books. He would go on the internet and find healthy cookbooks. More recently, he was interested in Keto and Paleo diets. He made terrific pasta sauce, starting with bottled sauce low in sodium. Then he would cut up green peppers, onions, garlic and other organic fresh vegetables to put in it.
Frank supported Sheila in having integrity in her endeavors. They discovered that they lived close to the publisher that printed Change-Links. So, every month, they would drive to Glendale, pick up all the copies of Change-Links, and deliver them to various locations, including the Peace Center in Culver City. Frank would unload most of the papers, saving those that Sheila would deliver elsewhere. Frank also supported Sheila in becoming and staying a notary. Sheila would take practice tests on the computer and Frank said Sheila needed to get a score very close to 100% to make sure she would pass the test when she took the notary class.
At one point after Frank moved in with Sheila, back east, Frank’s mother, Sylvia, may have had a stroke and went without oxygen long enough to cause some major damage. Frank’s father asked Frank to come back because he couldn’t handle Sylvia, and suffered a fatal heart attack after Frank arrived. Frank stayed back east to take care of Sylvia, but eventually it became too difficult, so he moved Sylvia to Los Angeles. Frank retired and went on Social Security early, so he didn’t get as much as Sheila, who was able to work a few years longer. Frank’s mother stayed with Frank and Sheila for a short time and then moved into a Board and Care home. Frank and Sheila hired private nurses to take care of Sylvia. One time, Sylvia threw Sheila’s metronome at one of the nurses. Sylvia died soon after moving from a board and care home into a hospital.
Frank was very generous. In spite of his lower Social Security income, he was still able to donate to several charitable organizations, like the Sierra Club and the SPCA. He subscribed to The Nation. And he paid some of Sheila’s bills. He traveled to Portugal, among other places. In Portugal, he found a lovely spot, wrote down a description of it and shared it with Sheila.
After a while, Frank would not drive in Los Angeles. He hated it. He was okay on the open road; he hated red lights and the way people drove in LA.
Frank had a temper. Sometimes Sheila would hurt him, squeezing his finger to get blood out to get a blood sugar reading. He didn’t like that. Toward the end, Sheila would check Frank’s blood sugar in the morning and give him his insulin injection.
Toward the end, when Frank was confined to a wheel chair, it was harder for him to get in and out of the car. So he would stay home and Sheila would go out. If Sheila didn’t call for a long time, Frank was afraid Sheila was dead. He also worried if Sheila slept for a long time.
One time toward the end, when Sheila was trying to take Frank’s blood pressure, she accidentally scratched him with her finger nail. Frank was so upset that he ripped the cord out of the blood pressure machine.
Frank had a joke; if Sheila couldn’t remember something, Frank would say, “With your memory?”. Frank had an outstanding memory. So does Sheila. Frank would remember baseball statistics from very long ago, like the 1940’s and 50’s. He stopped liking the Dodgers when they moved to LA.
Sheila’s voice teacher gave her several Schubert songs to learn. Eventually, Sheila took German at Valley College. Frank had a background in German, and he and Sheila spoke a few phrases to each other from time to time.
Frank gave Sheila lots of permission. If Sheila wanted to do something on the spur of the moment, Frank said yes. When Sheila saw a music CD she wanted, Frank said go ahead and they bought tons of DVDs.
Frank didn’t want to say good-bye on the phone or in person. He would usually wrap up the conversation by saying “So long.”
In this society, people make judgments on the usefulness or importance of other people. Given Frank’s jobs with the Post Office and the banks, Frank might have been adjudged as not important. He did everything he could to encourage Sheila to be educated. Sheila has decided to continue making a difference so that Frank’s life will not have been lived in vain.
Frank Hill was a good man. By that I mean he was compassionate, understanding and kind. Many great historical figures, the philosopher Immanuel Kant and the poet Allen Ginsberg regarded kindness as the highest good, the “summum bonum” – the only “unalloyed good”! That said, this finest and perhaps all too rare quality informed Frank’s long and intensive interest in politics, seeking, in the words of Norman O. Brown, “the amelioration of the human estate” – the relief of suffering, on all fronts, hunger, political repression, racism, genocide – the gamut of the world’s plentiful agonies. This in collaboration with his lifetime partner Sheila Goldner. Frank had a keen intellect and analytical ability. Many times I profitably turned to him for commentary on my writings on these matters, which were always improved thereby. He had no accredited certification in these areas that I know of, he was just a committed, concerned citizen. A “good man and true” – the kind of guy whom, if we had more of, we’d have a better planet. As told above, he was in no way a “bigshot” by the common reckoning, having worked almost all his life as a dividend-clerk in banks. But his life intimated that most sublime of Buddhist concepts: “a true man of no rank.” Frank was a nice guy, a “stand-up” guy, a true friend, and I will miss him always. How, after all, can we render a guy like that in speech or writing? There is a Slavic proverb which says it all: “When a good man dies, there is nothing to be said.”