Homecoming for Hilliards

By Mary L. Grady

Journalists return to Island from Eastern Washington

Interviewing a fellow journalist is never easy, but talking with two at the same time is nearly impossible.

Add in the fact that the pair have worked in almost every facet of print journalism, from daily newspapers to printing and production to serving as university faculty -- a mere yeoman reporter has a major challenge on her hands.

The situation deteriorates further when the pair also happens to be a couple who finish each others' sentences, gallop forward and back in time with ease and who are, above everything, professional storytellers themselves.

Bob and Nancy Hilliard, a couple with Island connections forged with both time and blood, are in the process of moving back to the Island from the various places they have lived and worked throughout the West.

Nancy Trout Gould-Hilliard, was a reporter for the Mercer Island Reporter between 1975 and 1985. She also worked for a time for the Kent News Journal, now the King County Journal Newspaper.

In the summer that Nancy was born, her parents were staying at their summer cottage near Franklin Landing off West Mercer Way. The expectant parents took the ferry to Seattle to Virginia Mason Hospital to have the baby girl.

After growing up on Queen Anne Hill and spending many summers on Mercer Island and Lake Washington, Nancy married Bud Gould, founder of Anthony's Restaurants. They raised four children on the Island, where Nancy was ``immersed in everything community,'' she said, including running for School Board against Cleve Anschell. It was her one and only foray into politics, she laughed.

She set out to finish college in her mid-30s. She met her future husband, Bob, when he hired her for an internship at the Kent News Journal.

``I had no choice but to offer her a job,'' he confided. ``She knew what she wanted to do and she had this giggle, this laugh, that was just irresistible. And she did everything -- sports, obituaries, the works.''

When she returned to the University of Washington for a final semester, the newspaper gave her a scholarship to pay her tuition since they weren't allowed to pay her, he explained.

However, the two did not date until a few years later when both were divorced. When Bob appeared at the door one evening, two of the Gould children pulled their mother into a laundry room for an emergency conference. They were not impressed at all at the time with their future step-dad but that all changed. ``They love him now, Nancy said.''

The Hilliards, who married two years later in 1982, appear to laugh easily and often.

Nancy remembers names and stories from her years on the Island and writing for the Reporter. She remembers the fuss when a certain Seahawk football coach cut down trees that were not on his property to improve his view and a story she wrote about Island students harassing those less fortunate at the high school.

Bob retired from Washington State University in Pullman this year after 22 years of teaching, writing and editing within the Department of Communications. He has two grown sons with families of their own, from his previous marriage. Not only was the Idaho native responsible for managing and producing the award-winning campus newspaper, the Daily Evergreen, Bob headed up the university's yearbook, The Chinook, and WSU student publications.

Nancy is completing a final year as the news and media manager at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, just eight miles east of WSU. Prior to her work at UI, Nancy worked in a similar position at Bellevue Community College and was the news and information director for Washington State University branch campuses in Vancouver, Wash, the Tri-Cities and Spokane.

The Hilliards have owned a condominium for several years off Gallagher Hill Road and have spent summers here when they could. They note that much has changed about the Island, yet much has remained the same.

There is much to do to close out one life to begin another. Nancy has boxes of clippings from her years at the Reporter, and Bob who began his career as a printer setting type by hand at newspapers in southern Idaho, has his collections of lead type and clocks.

Chagrined by the traffic, the two plan to bus to baseball games. They are planning a long road trip across the country and spending time with grandchildren.

Forever curious, Nancy is keen to find out what has happened to some of the people in her stories from years past. She characterizes news stories as snapshots; they are not the end of a story or a life, she advises the hapless reporter.

Retirement will not be the end of the story for the Hilliards. After a bit of decompression, they plan to get right back into things with their family and the community.

``There will be no way we can stay away,'' Nancy Hilliard said as her husband looked skyward and smiled.

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