Ophelia Lizzie Garrett Hill, age 94, was born April 15, 1926 in Hardaway, Alabama to the late Lewis Dorsey Garrett and Earline Harrison Garrett. To this union were born five children of which Ophelia was the oldest. The family moved to Tuskegee, Alabama when Ophelia was a young girl. Her mother passed at a young age and Ophelia was raised by her grandmother, Ophelia Harrison, until her grandmother’s death. After the death of her grandmother, Ophelia moved in with the TJ Jones family on the campus of then Tuskegee Institute, where she lived until after graduation from college.
When Ophelia was living with her grandmother, she was responsible for cooking the meals. As a young girl, she would stand in a chair and prepare meals for her brothers and sister. Upon moving in the Jones family, Ophelia continued her love for cooking. It is here she learned about preparing meals for large gatherings. The Jones would have large and small gatherings weekly and where Ophelia prepared for the events.
Upon graduation from Tuskegee Institute High School, Ophelia attended Tuskegee Institute and majored in Home Economics. Food preparation became her specialty. This is where she perfected the arts of baking and cooking. After completing college, she obtained a job at Autauga County Training School as a Home Economics teacher. Ophelia began working in the Birmingham City School system in 1952 at Parker High School. She transferred to Western-Olin High School (now Jackson-Olin) in 1953 and completed her career there, retiring in 1985. She influenced many students who later became chefs and worked in the Birmingham area. Not only did she teach her students how to cook but she taught them life skills, marketing, etiquette and entrepreneurship. She worked tirelessly with the 4H Clubs and was president for the State Home Economics and Vocational Departments. After retirement, she remained active with the Jackson-Olin Retired Teachers.
In 1948, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. was starting a chapter at Tuskegee Institute. On April 15, 1948 (her birthday), she became an illustrious charter member of the Gamma Kappa chapter. Ophelia continued her active membership upon her move to Birmingham in the Omicron Omega Chapter. During her membership with Omicron Omega, Ophelia served in many capacities. She held the offices of Basileus (President), Anti Basileus (Vice President), Trustee, a delegate to Boules and Regionals, House Chairman, Soror of the Year, President of the Year, and Golden Soror of the Year. She volunteered with March of Dimes, the Diabetes Association and prepared Thanksgiving dinner many years for Jessie’s Place. She was a Founding member and Incorporator of The Cultural and Educational Advancement Foundation, Inc. which is the 501(c)3 corporation of Omicron Omega, serving as its first president. In January 2020, Ophelia was recognized as a Pearl of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. for serving 65-74 years. Upon her death she had 73 years of continuous, active service.
On a blind date organized by one of Ophelia’s line sisters and Thomas’ (affectionately known as TJ) home girls, they met, fell in love, and married on May 11, 1952. It was also TJ’s graduation date. They moved to Birmingham and established themselves as a couple in the city. They spent summers living in New York and various parts of the country where she cooked and babysat for families and he drove them around. Wherever Ophelia was, you could guarantee TJ was there also. To this union three children were born. Their first child passed after birth. Two years later their second child Thomasyne was born and twenty-two months later their third child Reginald was born. The four them were inseparable traveling the country every summer visiting family.
Ophelia not only raised her two biological children but also was instrumental in the rearing of several family members as well as students from school and church. She was always feeding and nurturing the neighborhood children. During the summer, young relatives would live with them and learn the life skills of cooking and sewing. Notable graduates of this summer education include her niece the late JoAnne Hill Jennings and cousin Dr. Adrienne Harrison Berry. She was known by family members as “Skip” or “Aunt Skip.”
Upon moving to Birmingham, TJ and Ophelia joined the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and they both immediately became active in the church side by side. She served in many capacities including Superintendent of the Sunday School, a deaconess, Sunday School teacher and in any other capacity she was asked to work. In the early ‘80s, they moved their membership to Sixth Avenue Baptist Church where they again became very active. She served in many capacities there, most notably, she organized the New Members’ Orientation Class, which later became known as the Assimilation Ministry. Rev. Porter asked her to start serving dinner for Wednesday Night Live Bible Study. She also prepared and organized the food preparation and service for the Dinner Theater put on by the Arts Ministry. Ophelia also worked with the Sunday School and Deaconess Ministries until she was no longer able to serve.
Ophelia spent her life serving others. She lived in her neighborhood of Titusville for over 60 years. She checked on neighbors every day. She was most famously known for her pound cakes and sitting on the porch no matter the temperature outside. She would walk the neighborhood every day. When new neighbors moved in, she would welcome them with a cake and invite them over for dinner. Even after she stopped cooking for Wednesday Night Bible Study, there was a steady group of families who continued to eat at the house before going to church for Bible study. Ophelia lived by Matthew 25:35, “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
On January 22, 2021, the Lord reached from heaven to earth and touched this special angel to bring her home with Him. She is preceded in death by her husband Thomas James Hill, brothers Joseph Garrett, Lewis Henry Garrett, Elbert Garrett and sister Thelma Louise Garrett Pinkard. She leaves to cherish her memories, daughter Dr. Thomasyne E. Hill, son Reginald J. Hill (Kimberly), grandchildren Tressie Jamese Williams, Sarah Olivia Hill, Marcella Ophelia Hill, Dorsey Ruth Hill, and Thomas Carmichael Garrett Hill, sisters-in-law Mrs. Johnnie Garrett and Mrs. Doris Garrett, special cousin Dr. Adrienne Harrison Berry, other nieces, nephews, cousins, her Alpha Kappa Alpha sisters, and her Sixth Avenue Baptist Church family.
To the entire Hill Family, we at Weatherly Funeral Home offer to each of you our most sincere and heartfelt sympathy and condolences. Our prayer continues to be that your abiding faith in God will lend to you a measure of comfort that will strengthen and sustain your during your time of bereavement.
Compassionate services rendered under the direction of Thomas and Marla W. Jackson and Jacqueline S. Weatherly
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