TO JOHN HILLARD - A HILLCLIMBING CHAMPION
By: Bud Northrup
The Indiana and
Illinois hillclimb programs suffered a tragic loss last December 19 when 35 year
old John Lee Hillard died from injuries resulting from a snowmobile accident
near his home in Georgetown, Illinois.
John was a veteran rider on the hillclimb circuits in Districts 15 and
17, and was well known for his full throttle attacks on even the most difficult
Few riders are willing to challenge the hills on big bore Harleys and the
incredibly high-revving and unpredictable Kawasaki 750cc triples, and even fewer
are willing to meet that challenge with the twist grip pegged to the limit.
John was one of those even fewer daredevils that took the challenge on
Spectators and competitors alike stopped their conversations, bike
preparation, or whatever they were doing when the announcer called Johnís name
and turned their full attention to the hill Ė knowing they would likely see an
incredibly fast high flying run resulting in either a great time or a stupendous
never let the crashes slow him on his next ride.
John was highly successful in his competition.
My records back to 1995 show that in the five years 1995 through 1999 he
claimed three District 15 Championships, winning the Open Class on his Harley in
1995 and 1996, and when he blew the Harley engine in 1998 he still had enough
points to place third, while also finishing third on the 750cc Kawasaki.
He took over riding the triple from his brother Jim who was sidelined due
to injuries he incurred riding the wild machine.
John adapted to the triple quickly, riding it to the District 15 750cc
championship in 1999.
He didnít ride in but about half of the District 17 events in this time
period, but still accumulated 3 thirds, a fourth and 2 fifth place finishes in
Illinois. He took a sabbatical from racing in 2000 to relieve the stress on his
wife, Julie, who was pregnant and delivered a beautiful son, Jonathon Alex on
September 1, 2000.
He was looking forward to hillclimbing in 2001.
Julie noted his finest hillclimbing moment came on August 21, 1999 when
he not only took the the District 17/Illinois State Championship title on the
triple but also the overall Fast Time award with a 4.484 second run on the 230
foot long King City Dirt Rider hill near Mt. Vernon, Illinois.
Hillclimbing is truly a family sport for the Hillards.
Johnís father, John, and brother, Daren, were veteran climbers, as well
as his uncles Jim Grubb and Paul Hillard and cousin Jim Grubb.
The Hillard Hillclimbing Team of the 90ís included John, his brother
Jim, Jimís son Kieven, and cousins Mike and Paul Hillard.
Johnís absolute first priority, however, was his family.
He loved his wife Julie deeply, and was totally dedicated to his new baby
boy Jonathon Ė he loved nothing more than the precious time spent with his
John was also known for his sportsmanship.
Bobby Fisher (the ĎFlyiní Fishí) tells of the time that when his
(Bobís) Harley broke, instead of celebrating because his toughest competitor
was sidelined, John went home and got some of his own spare parts and gave them
to Fisher so he could repair his bike and compete Ė a really classy thing to
addition, John and his brother Jim proved to be excellent mechanics and
machinists, and built their own bikes as well as help many climbers with their
Many clubs run Saturday night Ė Sunday doubleheaders and allow the
climbers, families and friends to camp on their grounds overnight.
Some of the most enjoyable times of the season come sitting around the
campfires telling hillclimb stories.
It is certain that when these stories are told in the future John
Hillardís name will come up often.
We all have our memories of John fearlessly attacking a hill on his
roaring Harley or the screaming triple, flying high and bringing the crowd to
its feet. These
memories will be passed down.
We will miss him Ė his thrilling rides of course, but most of all his
wonít be quite the same without him.
Now Iím not one who is too much in to poetry, but the following was
written and read at Johnís funeral by Johnís 15 year old niece, Amber
was tremendously moved by her words and would like to share them here:
He didnít get to live his entire life,
He left behind a new son and wife.
The Lord said it was time to go,
On that fateful evening as he rode through the snow.
On that curve he did not make,
The Lord said your soul I shall now take.
Heís now an angel in the sky,
Watching down on you and I.
When we meet again I cannot say,
Itís up to the Lord to make that day.
Until then, Uncle John, Iíll remember your always smiling face,
And when you gave hugs, your oh so tight embrace.
Iíll miss you so much, I know we all will,
And forever and ever, Iíll love you still.
Farewell, John Ė Thanks for the memories.
They will last and be shared as long as Illinois and Indiana hillclimbers
gather and tell their stories.
You will not be forgotten.