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Ruth Raelene Hill, wife of Mormon mission President Norman C. Hill of the Ghana Accra West Mission, died Sunday due to complications from a medical procedure.
She was 64.
Known for her pragmatic thinking, problem solving and individual initiative, Hill was much loved by the LDS missionaries in that West African capital.
After taking endless middle- of-the-night calls from young men with stomach and digestive problems, the mission mom figured out they weren't cooking their food thoroughly enough so she got permission to supply microwave ovens in every apartment.
Raelene Hill who once was the only female teacher at western Utah's Tintic High and had to drive the bus to take the drill team and cheerleaders to games was a strong, independent Mormon.
"My role is woven into the fabric of the [Ghana Accra] mission just like the local weavers who take full advantage of dyes and materials in making kente cloth," Hill told The Salt Lake Tribune last year. "The missionaries look to me to help them as a teaching-resource specialist, personal counselor and ever-present friend. Specifically, I have focused on helping the missionaries become better teachers."
For each missionary apartment, she assembled health emergency kits, which included a thermometer, ibuprofen, Imodium A-D, a malaria test kit and malaria medicine. She also created "white boards" for each missionary by laminating a blank sheet of paper for use with marking pens.
"Most Ghanaians are visual learners; yet most missionaries are unfamiliar themselves with how to use visual aids," Hill explained last year. "At zone conferences and district council meetings, I show them how to use these white boards in specific lessons along with using other visual aids such as the Gospel Art Book and games from the Family Home Evening manual."
The Hills, who lived in the Klein, Texas, LDS Stake, had served together in Ghana since July 2013.
"They are deeply loved by their family, church leaders and their missionaries," LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement. "We pray for each of them at this difficult time and extend our love to President Hill and his family."
Mormon mission presidents and their wives can have lasting impacts on the young LDS proselytizers in their care. They serve for three years, help set a tone for their missions, represent the faith's principles and practices, and exemplify a marriage in action.
The couple met as juniors at different Ogden high schools, when both took an LDS Church history tour through several religious sites on the East Coast. They married after Norman Hill served his two-year Mormon mission.
"In quiet ways, my mom had high energy and was a high achiever," her oldest son, Ryan Hill, of Houston, said Monday. "Throughout her life, she served without always having to be thanked or to be in front."
She saw "the good in almost anyone and anything; imperfections and flaws didn't dampen her spirit or enthusiasm for everything," Ryan Hill said. "She considered most people a friend and would defend them no matter what shortcomings they had."
As the mother of five children (four living) and grandmother of 12 and two on the way, family meant everything to Hill, her son said. "We teased her about wanting to have a family compound where we could all live together."
But after being a mission mother, she now has hundreds of surrogate children, he said, and her influence will continue to be felt all over the world.
Funeral arrangements are pending.