Mike Hill, a 61-year-old custodian who was one of six people shot dead at a Nashville elementary school last week, was remembered on Tuesday for his loving nature, his culinary skills and his faith.
Hundreds turned out for Hill’s funeral at Stephens Valley Church. The pastor, Jim Bachmann, said the hearts of the congregation were aching for the man they called “Big Mike”.
“He was big, and he was strong and he was tough,” Bachmann said. “But he was also soft and tender.
“He hugged my kids and he hugged your kids, and he knew them by name. As the first victim – maybe this is a sentimental thought, but it’s a comfort to me to think that Mike was there to welcome the children through the pearly gates.”
Three adults and three nine-year-old children were killed in the 27 March shooting at the Covenant School. Police killed the shooter, a 28-year-old former student.
Hill was one of the few African American members of Stephens Valley, a mostly white suburban church he attended because of his friendship with Bachmann. The pastor founded Covenant Presbyterian Church, where the Covenant School was located, and the two became friends while working there, Bachmann said.
The pastor said he and Hill were “about as different as two people could be” but shared a faith in Jesus through which “we will be together in heaven for all eternity”.
The funeral blended worship traditions, alternating a powerful hymn from a Black gospel choir with meditative pieces for violin and piano. It concluded with a rendition of Amazing Grace played on the bagpipes and drums.
Hill had seven children and and 14 grandchildren. He liked spending time with his family and cooking, according to an obituary. Bachmann recalled that Hill would often bring him freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. For special occasions, he might bring a pecan or chess pie.
“He led me into temptation. He did not deliver me from it,” Bachmann joked.
Bachmann said tragedies like the shooting evoke many emotions besides grief, including anger and confusion.
“People want change. They want action. They want leadership. They want something decisive to happen so that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again. Of course we all want that.”
Bachmann said he did not have answers, but called on those assembled: “Love one another and we will have the kind of world we want. And we’ll have peace like a river and righteousness like the waves of the sea.”
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