Hill, Charles Allan, "Charlie"
Charlie Hill, 62, passed away early on Monday morning, December 30, 2013, in Oneida, WI. His death followed a valiant, yearlong, battle against lymphoma cancer. He fought the disease with all the courage, irreverence, and humor that shaped his life and his comedic career. He was born on July 6, 1951, to Norbert S. and Eileen (Johnston) Hill in Detroit, MI and moved to his family's homestead on the Oneida Reservation in 1962. Charlie Hill was a member of the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin and belonged to the Turtle Clan.
Charlie was a graduate of West De Pere High School, class of 1969. He attended the University of WI-Madison where he majored in speech and drama and was a member of the experimental Broom Street Theater Group. Later, he toured Europe as a member of the La MaMa Experimental Theater Group which was based in New York City. He left college and moved to Hollywood, to pursue his dream as a stand up comedian. He lived in Los Angeles for the next 40 years, where he forged a successful career as an actor, writer and stand-up comedian. He was the first American Indian comedian in history and joined humor with political activism and social commentary, breaking down many stereotypes about Native Americans. His humor was universal and transcended the narrow restrictions of race, culture, or class. He succeeded in making people laugh with him, not at him. His groundbreaking talent and determination opened the door for generations of Native performers.
Early in his career, he performed at The Comedy Story in LA where he met comedians Richard Pryor, Jay Leno, Roseanne Barr, and David Letterman. He stepped into the national spotlight by appearing on "The Richard Pryor Show" in 1977. He became the first American Indian comedian to appear on both "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson and on "The Merv Griffin Show." He later became a writer for the hit "Roseanne" TV series. He made six appearances on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno," and made appearances on "David Letterman's Late Show" and the Arsenio Hall TV show. He wrote and performed on the Club Red Radio Show. He co-produced and was featured in the Showtime Special, "The Indian Comedy Slam, No Reservations Needed" in Nov. 2009. Charlie starred in the documentary, "On and Off the Res' with Charlie Hill," which was nominated for an Emmy in 2012, and was broadcast on PBS. He made countless appearances on college campuses across the nation. His acting credits include several TV series: "The Bionic Woman," "Moesha," and "Roseanne." Charlie received the 2009 Ivy Bethune Tri-Union Diversity Award from the Screen Actors Guild, and "The Jennifer Easton's Spirit Award" in 2012. In 2008, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Sinte Gleska University, a 4-year tribal college in Mission, SD.
Charlie is survived by his wife of 33 years, Lenora Hatathlie, Coalmine Mesa, AZ, and their four children, Dine' Nizhoni, Coalmine Mesa, AZ, Nasbah, and her fiancé, Jamison King, Oneida, WI, Nanabah, Los Angeles, CA, Nabahe, Oneida, WI, and one granddaughter, Tasbah, 3, Los Angeles, CA. He is also survived by two brothers, Norbert (Mary Anne) and Richard (Donsia), Oneida, WI, and two sisters, Rosa Coenen (Rick), De Pere, WI, and Barbara Author, Longmont, CO, father-in-law, Jack Hatathlie, as well as many nephews, nieces, cousins and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, Norbert and Eileen, his brother, Jimmy, and his mother-in-law, Bessie Hatathlie.
A funeral ceremony will be held on Friday, January 3, 2014, at 10:00 am CST at Ryan Funeral Home, 305 North Tenth St., De Pere, WI. There will be no public showing prior to the ceremony. In lieu of floral arrangements, a Memorial Fund has been established. Donations can be made to the Charlie Hill Fund, 532 Airport Road, Oneida, WI 54155. Please go to www.ryanfh.com to send online condolences to the family.
The family is deeply grateful for the outpouring of love, prayers, and support from countless individuals, family and friends, the staff of the Oneida Health Center, Heartland Hospice, St. Mary's Hospital, the Anna John Nursing Home, and Dr. Jerry M. Winkler of Green Bay Oncology.