|Birth: ||Nov. 26, 1912|
Vienna (Wien), Austria
|Death: ||Jun. 25, 2009|
HILL HAROLD BERMONT, Educator, Public TV Pioneer, and Recipient of Robert F. Kennedy Citation Hill Bermont lived 96 years, most of the time in vigorous activity.
His life was gentle, restless, daring. He so loved elevated places, that he coined the stage name of Hill Bermont for himself. It later became his legal name. W hile he lived a simple lifestyle, Hill attained lofty heights as a creative individual. He was also a world traveler whose explorations knew no limits, visiting many countries too numerous to name.
Hill Bermont was born Hans Blum on November 26, 1912 in Vienna into a prominent Austrian Jewish family, the son of Arthur Blum and Marianne Stern Blum. His father fought in World War I, but when the Nazis came to power, Hill's father fled the Nazi regime. Hill soon followed and lived temporarily in England with his father before traveling to America to become a naturalized American citizen in 1946. Hill's mother waited too late and was trapped in Austria. Marianne Blum was protected by a Christian family who hid her in their home for the duration of the war.
After the war ,Hill petitioned for his mother to come to America, and she did, cared for by her son and living in New York City until her death in 1960. Many other family members perished in the Holocaust.
Hill came to love the United States, crossing the country four times in two years with a touring company performing Snow White and the seven Dwarfs. Hill played Sir Dandy Pants and his death scene stopped the show every time. Hill's artistic talents were notable, but when work for actors became scarce in his adopted home state of New York, his agent suggested he try the growing city of Atlanta, Georgia, saying that Hill would probably do well in the pseudo culture of the south. Traveling to Atlanta by train, Hill's arrival was met with great excitement by Atlanta's most illustrious artists and actors. Atlanta's famed stage and film actress Mary Nell Santacroce, (of Driving Miss Daisy fame) was there to greet Hill, along with other Atlanta arty notables including famous radio personality Zenas "Daddy" Sears. Hill Bermont enjoyed relating that first meeting to friends, saying that his spirits lifted instantly when he was met at the Atlanta train station by the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, Mary Nell Santacroce.
Paula Walker, Mary Nell's younger sister, recalls Hill from those early days. "Hill was teaching swimming at the Atlanta Women's Club. He was wearing an old wool bathing suit. The suit looked like something he had brought over from Europe, the whole body style. The wool had moth holes in it. But Hill could teach anything, every style of dancing and swimming. The Women's Club had given him full use of a studio building across from the club, and during Hill's first years in Atlanta he taught and lived in that building. I thought Hill was flamboyant and colorful. I loved Hill's peculiarities; he espoused vegetarianism along with other strange ideas, at least strange ideas for those days."
Hill was always the authority on everything, and "in control." He was funny and full of character to the last." An audition was arranged and Hill became dance master of the first African American School of Ballet in Atlanta. He fondly recalled attending a reception with his new friends and meeting Margaret Mitchell. In 1957, Hill was hired as Program Director for the infant PBS station in Athens, WBTV, at The University of Georgia. Hill established excellent media production and broadcasting capabilities for the university.
In a Citation of Merit presented to Hill upon his departure in 1983, Hill was honored by these words: "He is a man who never ceases to learn, to experiment, to take risks and who, therefore, never grows stale. He is a person whose gifts of guidance to new and seasoned practitioners in the art of motion pictures and television are immeasurable. His concern for the principles of democracy, decency, and humanness motivates his creative and aesthetic energies. Nationally acclaimed personally and professionally, Hill Bermont has made his colleagues witnesses to and beneficiaries of a truly outstanding career."
When Hill retired from GPB, he sought a new career. In his youth he attended the University of Vienna, Sigmund Freud's alma mater, and studied Psychology. It was natural that he turned to a related field. In June 1986, Hill graduated from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute and became a licensed hypo-therapist. In addition to his private practice, he conducted educational lectures including some with The Emory Senior Seminars. Of the hundreds of educational films Hill created, two stand out as historically remarkable: "The Life and Times of General Santa Anna," and "The Bikinians." Hill's friend Linda Yates remembers interesting tidbits regarding those two notable films. "General Santa Anna had a silent film crew to record his most famous battles. The Mexican government loaned that amazing footage to Hill for inclusion in his documentary. When the islanders were allowed to return to Bikini Island after nuclear tests, Hill Bermont accompanied them, recording the only coverage of that world-famous event." (Continued to next column)
BERMONT, Hill (Continued from previous column) Hill Bermont was the 1975 recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Television Award Citation for his documentary, "The Bikinians." Well into his nineties, Hill continued to be a presence on Atlanta Cable Television. For over a decade, he had a weekly spot on the Interfaith Network, speaking on philosophical topics. He always signed off with the phrase, "Think about it!"
For over 50 years his hobby was sailing. He was an early member of the Lake Lanier Sailing Club. He spent so much time on the lake sailing that he taught his pet cats Dandylion and Violet to enjoy sailing, too. Named an honorary member in 2000, Hill maintained his interest in sailing until his death.
The renowned film and stage actress Dana Ivey says, that "The thing I remember the most about Hill was his zest for life. How he embraced it and savored all that life had to offer--his enthusiasm for so many things and ideas and being alive. It is a great lesson to me." Dante Santacroce recalls that when Hill was directing Dante's mother, Mary Nell, as Nina in The Seagull, Mary Nell gave the news that she was pregnant with her first child, Dana. Hearing that his star was pregnant, Hill stood and grandly announced to the company that, "I am from Austria and in Austria they do not allow perambulators (prams) at rehearsals!" Eric Santacroce remembers how Hill was the most fascinating character of many interesting people who paraded through their family home when he was growing up. Eric says, "Hill looked like Don Quixote, had an exotic accent, stood on his head and smoked a pipe. I'll miss him very much, and he will forever be sitting at my "minds table" with a smile and a finger raised making a point. John Ivey says, "I always looked forward to Hill's bright, adventurous, and intelligent spirit. I have many warm memories of time spent with Hill." Jack Creech says, "I was always told by others that Hill was a dance master, although I never saw him dance. Highly spiritual and always thoughtful of others, Hill's philosophy of life was to give more than he took. Hill no longer danced when I knew him, but he always brought the joy and happiness of the stage with him into every room. At his passing I'm reminded of the words of the prophet Kahlil Gibran: And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance. Tonight Hill is dancing once again. And we all feel his joy. And it is this joy that soothes the pain of his passing. The dancing master is still among us. He has just left to open a bigger show."
In his later years, Hill lived at the Mount Vernon Village in Atlanta. He led a good life with his cats and made many lasting friends at Mount Vernon Village. A fiercely independent man who was secretly tender, Hill crossed all barriers, all boundaries, all countries, all ethnic groups, all faiths. Hill lived an unnecessarily frugal life, yet he was overly generous with friends in need, and with special causes that elevated our world, including reading libraries and animal causes, most especially cat rescue centers. Friends of Hill will be pleased to know that Hill's Siamese cat Blossom has been tenderly loved by Hill's friends, and she is now living the good life in Florida with Hill's dear friend Kaye Anderson.
Hill Bermont died of complications from pneumonia on June 25, 2009. The Memorial Service for Hill Bermont will be held on Sunday, August 16th at 4 PM at the Lake Lanier Sailing Club. Symbolic of Hill completing his final race, attendees will complete one circuit of the Lake Lanier racing course, at which time his ashes, along with the ashes of his two sailing cats, will be scattered in Lake Lanier.
Survivors include "friends more close than relatives" including, Dana Ivey, Dante Santacroce, Eric, Terri and Evan Santacroce, Dr. Jack Creech, Jean Sasson, John Ivey, Leta Clare, Linda Yates, Kaye Anderson, Nicky Nixon, his friends at Mount Vernon Village and at the Lake Lanier Sailing Club, and many others too numerous to name. Arrangements by Wages & Sons, Stone Mountain Chapel 770/469-9811.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on July 23, 2009
Cremated, Ashes scattered.
Specifically: along with the ashes of his two sailing cats, will be scattered in Lake Lanier
Created by: Ms. Clyde
Record added: Nov 13, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 44267493
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