1080 × 1080During the month of May, the 9th Lights for Peace flag to fly at the Fort Taber - Fort Rodman Military Museum honors the memory of Robert B. Hiller II, of Rochester, who served in the Army Air Force from January 24, 1946 to July 17, 1947. Hiller served as a weatherman in the 16th Weather Squadron. He attended the Weather Observer Course at the AAFTS Chanute Air Force Base in Champaign County, IL. He was then stationed in Alaska, on Adak Island in the Aleutian Islands. During his tenure with the military, he earned the rank of Corporal and was awarded the WWII Victory Medal.
The Army Air Force (AAF) Weather Service served as a crucial element during WWII and beyond. “Just as a ground commander must know the terrain over which his troops and supplies move, so did the successful air commander of World War II depend upon uninterrupted and fresh intelligence regarding the atmospheric ‘terrain’ in which his forces operated,” according to the Army Navy Journal. “Atmospheric conditions thousands of feet above the ground determined the pathways open to his aircraft, and weather hundreds of miles away could be of greater military significance than a storm over his own headquarters. For this indispensable information the air commander relied on the delicate instruments and skilled personnel of his weather services.”
Bob Hiller, as he was known, was the owner-operator of Hiller Bros. Cranberries and East Over Farms in Rochester. “My dad was a gentleman in the true sense of the word. Quiet, always available, and proud of his town,” explained his son, Rob Hiller. The iconic buildings located on the East Over Farm properties are painted bright yellow and can be seen painting the landscape along Hiller Road and Mary’s Pond Road in Rochester. The farm was well known for its picturesque setting and for many years housed the well-known Clydesdale horses.
East Over Farms has been in the family for six generations. Bob’s grandfather, Robert Hiller (whom Bob was named after), along with his great uncle, Isaac Elwood Hiller, purchased the property in 1910 with the intention to build cranberry bogs between Mary’s Pond Rd. and County Rd.
Some of the buildings on the estate were built as far back as the 1760′s. When the Hillers purchased the property, they painted all of the buildings yellow. The paint was purchased from Kirby Paint in New Bedford, and this particular color is still sold as “Hiller Yellow” today. When Howard Hiller was asked why he chose to paint the buildings yellow, he answer was that it was the “cheapest” paint color at the time!
Then in 1920, Bob’s father Howard, originally from Marion, moved to Rochester and began the East Over Farm Dairy, delivering milk to Marion and Rochester until 1980. Bob started working at the Dairy Farm at a young age and worked there for many years.
Upon the passing of Bob’s father, Howard, the dairy was closed, at which time Bob along with his son Rob, concentrated solely on the cranberry business. The 1,000 acre property contained 150 acres of bogs. The remaining property consisted of pastures, hay fields, buildings and upland supporting the bogs. According to Rob Hiller, the Hiller family was “one of the early cranberry growers in the area.” Rob, along with this father, also built a cranberry handling plant in Carver which serviced independent cranberry growers in the area. Bob served as a longtime active member of the Cape Cod Cranberry Grower’s Association and Hiller Bros. Cranberries was the largest employer in town at one point.
Bob had a love of horses from a young age and in 1983, he purchased two 3-year old Clydesdale horses named Barney & Clyde. Over the next fifteen years, Mr. Hiller owned a total of 15 plus horses along with several ponies and donkeys. Each year, children and adults, alike would look forward to the team of Clydesdale horses that would take part in the Marion 4th of July parade. What once started out as a team of two horses quickly grew to a team of four and then six. Bob Hiller would also supply Pony carts and an array of antique trucks and carriages in the parade over the years. For decades, East Over Farms was open to the public, so people could enjoy these majestic animals along with the beautiful grounds.
Hiller was an active member of his community throughout his lifetime. He served for 20 plus years on the Rochester Fire Department, earning the rank of Lieutenant, under Chief Duffy Clapp. He was on the committee to purchase the town’s first fully equipped fire engine in 1972 and took pride in his service to his town. In fact, last year, during the annual Fire Dept. Clam Bake, Hiller was honored with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” and presented with an engraved axe from the department.
He was also a member of the Rochester Memorial School Committee, a 32nd Degree Mason and served as a Boy Scout leader, when his son, Rob was in Scouting. In fact, Hiller allowed Boy Scout Troop 31 to use his property on Leonard’s Pond for 45 years, from 1970 to 2015, until the property was sold. The troop named the camp “HoRoHi,” after Bob’s father, Howard Robert Hiller.
Over the course of his involvement with Hiller Bros. Cranberries, he made an impact on many of his employees. “My father and grandfather would hire a lot of young workers, just starting out.” Even if they moved on, “they would come back to visit. My dad kept in contact with a lot of his former employees. He was always stopping to talk to someone who would come by the farm to say hello.”
Eventually, Hiller sold a portion of his property to the town of Rochester, as well as the Trustees to become what is now known as “East Over Reservation.” Rob Hiller explained that his dad felt very strongly about preserving the historic nature of the property. He wasn’t able to “donate” the property, due to the cranberry bogs, so instead he sold it to the town so that it could be preserved. Now the six-generation property could be maintained and preserved and enjoyed by many in the years to come. The reservation is lined with two miles of stone walls that were constructed by Charles Leonard in the 1850′s along with Italian masons. They took 11 years to build, at a cost of $60,000. According to the East Over Reservation website, “Today the rolling fields and abandoned pasture lands comprise well over half of East Over’s acres. Almost 40 acres of hayfields provide not only an important agricultural crop, but also habitat for grassland wildlife.” You may ask, what makes East Over Reservation a special place? “The rural surroundings evoke a simpler, less-pressured time in America.”
Bob Hiller, The Quiet Man of Rochester, made sure that his property could continue to foster this simpler, quieter, peaceful life for all to enjoy.
Robert Hiller II passed away on February 9, 2020 at the age of 92. He was the husband of the late Dorothy M. Hiller with whom he enjoyed 61 years of marriage. He is survived by his son, Robert B. Hiller III, and wife Sandra of Rochester; grandchildren, Tess E. Hedblom and husband Erik of Mattapoisett, Jacob W. Hiller, DVM of Richmond, VA and Paige M. Hiller of Rochester, two great-granddaughters Sadie E. Hedblom and Adley J. Hedblom of Mattapoisett.
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