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1921 - 2012 Obituary Condolences

Feb. 22, 1921 - Mar. 8, 2012

Died unexpectedly but peacefully on March 8, 2012, at age 91. Death was due to complications from a fall he had at home on January 21st.

Born in Orland on Feb. 22, 1921 to Elmer Edward and Blanche Breaks Hills. He was the youngest of six children, all of whom along with their spouses predeceased him. He is the descendant of Joseph Hills, who at age 36, came from Maldon, England to the New England colonies on the ship "Susan and Ellen" in 1638 and settled in what is now the Boston area.

Arnold is survived by his wife, Sharie of Orland; his three stepchildren, Gerald Canadas, Donald Canadas, and Kathy Slocum (husband Dean), all of Orland; also several step-grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Survived also by his three children, son, Don Hills (wife Diane) of Carmichael; daughters, Charlotte Bohannon (husband Jim), and Adriana Giannola, all of Chico. Also survived by his first wife, Joyce Hills of Orland. He had six grandsons: Matthew and Christopher Hills, Rick and Joseph Giannola, Jason and Neil Morgan; one granddaughter, Robin Giannola Johnson; and 7 great-grandchildren, all of whom survive him. He had 27 nieces and nephews and is survived by 24 of them.

Arnie played baritone in the marching band all 4 years at Orland High School - he was a fly fisherman, a golfer, a pilot, a ham radio operator (W6QEE), a Mason, an inventor and a visionary. He was an astute and independent businessman who was still driving and working right up until the afternoon of the day he fell. When asked about retiring he would say "What would I do?" - being productive in some way was always his goal. He carried his own weight and expected others to do the same. However, if someone was going through a rough patch and needed a "hand-up" he was quick to offer assistance in whatever form was most helpful. He was honest and fair in business and his handshake was his word.

Arnie was a WWII veteran - at the end of the war he was discharged from the Army as a First Lieutenant. Directly after the war, he and his brother-in-law, George Jess (who had been a pilot in WWII) decided to make some money repairing "auto" radios, as there was a need for this service and also this was a way to support their families. (He and George were married to sisters.) They rented a little corner in the large Orland Hardware building on 5th Street (this building is gone now). They basically had a bench on which to do the repairs and that was about it. They soon outgrew that space so they hired Berlinger Brothers to construct a building at 412 Walker St. - with a large opening on the alley side in order for autos to pull in and have radios repaired or installed on the spot (this building is still there). Later, they also sold appliances, radios, and all kinds of electronic devices as "Jess and Hills Appliance". Eventually Arnie operated "Hills Appliance" at the same Walker St. location, and then a few years later he rented the building next door to include furniture. In the late 1950's he decided to sell out his retail business at 412 Walker St. He then became involved in a new business buying and selling distressed retail stock from all over California. He would transport this distressed merchandise to his "Warehouse Sales" building on east Highway 32 in Orland.

During the mid 1950's Arnie took flying lessons in a "Mooney". He said he flew a helicopter once and it was really disconcerting to look out to your left and see that the entire tail assembly had swung around so you were going forward while flying sideways - and not very fast. Flying became quite a passion for him and it was said that he wore out his first three planes - a Luscombe, a Cessna, and a Bonanza. He continued to fly until early 2000 - said he would leave it to the younger guys because no one would go up with him anymore! Over the years he used his flying skills for his businesses - lots faster than driving, lots easier to get things done.

During the 1960's Arnie decided that the future was cable TV so he set up the TV cable system in Orland, Corning and Willows. He spent summers climbing hundreds of telephone poles to string cable. When he was finished, these towns had almost the only cable TV north of Sacramento. Later, he sold his TV Cable Company and concentrated on other business endeavors like his Mini-Storage on Highway 32 just east of Orland.

As a teenager, Arnie was interested in being a ham radio operator (he was interested in radios period!) and he continued being a ham for the rest of his life (W6QEE). It was a great way to make contact with relatives when you couldn't do it by phone. Phones then had to have wires or cables and coverage was pretty spotty in most of the world. When stationed in Okinawa, he would try by ham radio to contact George (Jess) in Orland to get family news, but if the signal didn't bounce right he couldn't get to Orland. When this happened he would usually have more success bouncing a signal to a fellow ham operator in South America. This man was a partner of Arnie's brother, Liston and this fellow would radio George in Orland and give him Arnie's messages and vice versa. It was wonderfully exciting to be able to get news as it was happening.

Arnie had circles of friends from all walks of life and he talked freely of his many escapades when he was younger. Each of these friends probably has at least one "Arnie" story. This is one we heard just the other day: One day Arnie was driving around Orland in a car he had fixed up to run (he said he was 12 but admitted he might have been younger, there were no driving license rules then) A policeman stopped him and wrote him a ticket for not having windshield wipers - Arnie said - "but officer I don't have a windshield." The officer said to tell it to the judge. So he went to court and told the judge he didn't know where he would put the wipers since he didn't have a windshield - the judge fined him $2.00 anyway.

A Celebration of Life for Arnie will be held at a later date. All friends and family will be invited to attend.
Published in Chico Enterprise-Record on Mar. 22, 2012
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