Hilda told her daughters many times the worst day of her life was the day Americans were attacked on their own soil - Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941...
Hilda was someone we all would have wanted to know. She was a happy energetic woman that loved life and loved to laugh. She adored her family and stayed close to her friends. She loved to garden and read, especially history. She loved to sew and work crossword puzzles. In her younger years she was a strong swimmer and loved to dance. She could do cartwheels well into her 50’s and she learned how to drive a car after her husband’s passing at the young age of 64. She was an excellent cook and loved to have parties during the summer months. Friends and family recount many fond memories sitting in her kitchen and having coffee and talking and laughing, laughing and talking. She was adored by people of all ages and fit in with any crowd. When her husband passed away, it was suggested that she move to a retirement community and she replied, “Why would I want to be around all those old people?”
Hildegarde Zill was born and grew up on a farm in a little town, Schwedelbach, Germany where she had a pet goose. It was not uncommon for her to wrap piglets in blankets and bring them in to the house on cold winter nights. Her father was a musician in the famous Krone Circus. When he was away performing with the circus, Hilda's mother would rent out a room to make extra money. On one such occasion in 1929 Hilda's mother rented the room to a Jewish seamstress. A few days later police officers showed up on the farm and demanded half of everything produced on the farm. As Hilda told the story to her daughters, her mother cut the head off a chicken and boldly handed the chicken head to the officers saying, "Here's your half!" The police told Hilda's mother to no longer rent rooms to Jews. The policemen took the Jewish seamstress away to "live with others like her." Sensing turmoil, Hilda’s family left Germany that same year, leaving their farm with just a few belongings. Her father, mother, and three brothers all immigrated to the United States via Ellis Island and settled in New Jersey. Hilda was eight years old and could speak German and French but did not speak English. Her mother forbade French and German newspapers in the house forcing Hilda to learn English. During the Depression, Hilda's father had a pushcart vegetable stand. Hilda and her mother scrubbed floors to help pay the bills.
After World War II started, Hilda was hired as a bookkeeper at the Kearny Shipyard in New Jersey. She worked seven days a week and used to joke that she could have christened the battleships by reaching out her office window. After meeting on a blind date and a whirlwind courtship of three months, Hilda Zill married Edward Marcin on February 13, 1943. Edward was a welder and later became a police officer. Hilda and Edward were married until his death in 1979. Later, she worked for 20 years as manager of Waiters and Waitresses Local 109's Retirement and Welfare Fund, but it was her 14 years as a special education aid for the Morris County Public Schools that she most loved. The children she worked with had been abused, neglected or from drug addicted families. The staff and students loved her.
Hilda was not afraid of anyone. One time a thug tried to mug her and steal her purse, "I know your game!" She whacked the guy on the head with her umbrella. Her home in New Jersey had been burglarized three times. One time she chased a would be robber with her then late husband's billy club. She knew who he was and contacted his parents and apologized to them, but said she had to turn him in for his own good.
The woman was meticulous, organized and frugal. Whether it was because she endured great hardship during the Depression or because she was a member of the Greatest Generation, or it was German upbringing, or a combination of all three, Hilda kept records of everything. She saved buttons from old clothing because they were good quality and should not be thrown away. Nothing was wasted and everything had a place.
Winters were becoming more and more difficult with each passing year and so June 2001 she retired as an aid to relocate and live with her daughter in California. She had made her reservations for the flight to California in March. Being organized and meticulous as she was known to be, she gave both her daughters duplicate copies with an accounting of her assets as well as a prepared obituary in the event that something should happen to her.
On September 11, 2001 along with 36 other passengers, Hilda Marcin boarded United Flight 93 to start a new chapter of her life. Little did she know that she was on the front lines of a new battle, a new much more sinister war. I imagine in those last horrifying moments of her life Hilda was comforting others on board that fateful flight. I imagine she offered words of encouragement to those around her. Through out her life she showed no fear. I am sure that is how she lived to the very last moment. Little did she know, that she would forever be one of the heroes of United Flight 93.
May God rest her soul and continue to offer comfort to those she left behind.
A Life Remembered,
1922 - 2001
National Park Service Flight 93 Volunteer Newsletter
Among The Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Back by Jere Longman
San Francisco Chronicle
SF Flight 93 Memorial
Thank you for pausing and remembering Hilda. I also invite you to read and remember the lives of Toshiya Kuge, Tom Burnett, Deora Bodley and Marion Britton. I have linked them below or you can find them at the top of my side bar.
2011: I remember Mark Bingham.2010: I remember Don and Jean Peterson.
2009: I remember Hilda Marcin.
2008: I remember Toshiya Kuge.
2007: I remember Tom Burnett.
2007: I remember Deora Bodley.
2006: I remember Marion Britton.