Gladys came from England to marry Walter Hill in 1923. She was athletic, hard working and a determined woman. She adjusted to her new life in the north remarkably well. Gladys enjoyed the adventure and challenges the new community of Fort McMurray had to offer. Gladys May (Percy) Hill was born on June 23,1900 in London, England into an affluent family. She grew up without having to worry about household tasks. She did not even know how to boil water and certainly did not have the outdoor experiences that would be necessary to prepare her for living in the north.
Walter and Gladys' families were friends. Gladys' father was a builder and Walter's father worked for him as an estimator. In 1923 Walter wrote Gladys' father to ask permission to marry his daughter. Gladys came from England to Edmonton, where she and Walter were married. The new couple made the trip to Fort McMurray by train and then by boat. They only had $5.65 to get themselves started but unfortunately, somewhere along the way Walter lost the five dollar bill and they arrived in Fort McMurray with nothing left but a handful of change. Gladys was the 11th white woman to arrive in the area. When she stepped off the train at the end of steel in Old Waterways she was wearing a big gold picture hat, however the remainder of their journey was in an uncovered boat, through the rain to Fort McMurray. By the time they arrived Gladys had tossed that gold hat into the river, and traded it in for Walter's hat and old raincoat. Gladys quickly adapted to her new life with skill, determination and perseverance.
Gladys discovered quickly that the northern lifestyle was very different from England. However, she never complained and immediately adapted to her new surroundings. Gladys continued to enjoy some of the traditions of her former life in England such as listening to the radio and playing the piano. She also learned many new skills including fishing, horseback riding and hunting small game, like grouse and rabbit that were necessary for survival. The aboriginal people called her the 'medicine man's Iskwew'. They were amazed by her capabilities and her love of the water. Both Walter and Gladys taught dozens of children in the community how to swim and Gladys also taught a lifesaving course to Girl Guides.
In 1934, the drugstore, which was also their residence caught fire, Gladys rescued her children then ran back in to save important ledgers, recent prescription files, money and some books before everything was completely destroyed by the blaze.
Gladys was very involved in her new community. In 1950 she was elected as the first female town councilor, a position she held for five years. She was active in a number of organizations, the Anglican Women's Auxiliary and for 25 years serving in the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire Reagent (IODE). She helped organize the "1st of July" sports events, and played on a number of sports teams. Gladys was well respected in the community, she was known for her competitive nature and her athletic ability. She was active in swimming, running, curling, tennis, softball and badminton.
Gladys was a hard worker. She tended to the home and the children, and assisted Walter in the store. In her later years she was known to out work many of the younger staff. She retired at the age of 79 when emphysema had made it too difficult for her to work any longer. On December 5th, 1985 at the age of 85, Gladys Hill passed away, in Fort McMurray one year before her husband.
Walter and Gladys had two sons, David and Kenneth.