Jenny Poquette takes Geneva Drive to get her 11-year-old twin girls to Lawton Elementary School in Oviedo every morning.
While the commute has become routine, the girls light up as they pass a man sitting outside of his small white house off of Kimble Street, donning a big smile and a friendly wave.
Tim Hill, a 75-year-old lifelong Oviedoan, spends about three to five hours each weekday waving and saying hello to kids, parents and friends who pass by his house during the mornings and afternoons.
“We’re out the door by 8 a.m. every morning, and nine times out of 10, he’s out there,” Poquette said. “And if he’s not, then one of [the girls] will notice and say, ‘Oh, he’s not there today’, and then it’s like a, where-do-you-think-he-is type thing and they try to figure out where he is.”
Her family feels like they know Mr. Hill, even though they have never met him.
Hill is modest about what he does for the community, insisting that it’s no big deal. He said he never drank alcohol or smoked and that allowed him to be successful in life and raise his kids.
“I don’t want a pad on the back,” Hill said. “This is just what I do, and who I am,” Hill said.
Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek said she feels safe having Hill watching out for her oldest son who walks to Jackson Heights Middle School each day. Hill gives her daily reports of how her son’s commute went that day when he sees her biking her 2-year-old son to and from school. She said Hill stops traffic when the kids, and even Sladek, cross the street.
Hill said that the traffic passing his home goes fast and because of the angle of the road, it can be difficult for motorists to see pedestrians.
Sladek said that her oldest son knows that if anything goes wrong, he can go to Hill and that many other people in the community consider Hill a safety net for their children.
“We are just so grateful for his constant cheerful presence and his heart for looking out for all these kids and for safety in general,” Sladek said. “I feel like a safer biker with him sitting there watching me.”
She said that he is an important, positive presence in Oviedo.
“As a kid, as a middle schooler, I feel like middle school is a rough season,” Sladek said. “To have all these middle schoolers go past and see an example of an adult who is constantly making an effort to make eye contact, and to say, ‘Hello, how are you doing? How’s your day going?’ It really does make an impact.”
Nicole Harvey met Hill three years ago while she was taking her daughter to Jackson Heights Middle School and they’ve since developed a strong friendship.
She said she always told herself: “I’m gonna stop one day and talk to him,” and finally one day, she did.
“Tim was never in need of anything but, my other half is very handy and we noticed that he needed a new roof so we thought – the community loves him, because he waves to everybody every day,” Harvey said. “Why don’t we see if the community would like to pitch in for the material costs so that we can get this roof done for him?”
After Harvey convinced Hill to let the community help, she created a Go Fund Me account, which raised $2,425.
In the end, the roofing company Skymark Roofing offered to fix Hill’s roof for free and so Harvey and her boyfriend were able to renovate Hill’s bathroom, install a gutter, put insulation in his attic, install a soffit, and paint the outside of his home.
Harvey said that they will continue working to improve Hill’s house because they still have some funds left from the donations.
Harvey also got Hill tickets to attend an Orlando Magic basketball game where the Jackson Heights Middle School band was opening. Harvey said that Hill is a sports fanatic and loved to see the kids play.
She also said that he has been living in his house for 47 years and before that, he lived in a wooden house behind his current home that is no longer there. His mother, who is in her 90s, lives next door.
Hill, who is Black, went to high school in Sanford even though he lived in Oviedo because of segregation, and he went to the Florida Technical University, now the University of Central Florida.
He used to work for Nelson and Co. and Florida Technical University. Since he retired he starts his day with a morning bike ride and returns around 8:30 a.m. so he can greet the kids who pass by.
Marianne Mackee, a Seminole County Public School bus driver, passes Hill’s house every morning and afternoon with a bus full of 5- and 6-years-old students who love waiving back to Hill.
“The kids will say, ‘Oh there is Mr. Tim, there is Mr. Tim!’ So, of course, them being on my bus and knowing how I am, they always wave to everybody now,” Mckee said.
Mckee said that she is always looking forward to Hill’s waves.
“It does make me feel good because he always yells, ‘have a good day!’ And I would yell out of my window back, ‘have a good day!’” Mckee said.
Poquette said that she appreciates Hill’s smiles and kindness because she said that so many people are too rushed for pleasantries or are distracted by their phones.
“He’s just sitting there waving at everyone who drives by, and I think my girls have learned that because of that, so many good things have come his way as far as all these updates to his house,” Poquette said. “All that is just because of what he’s offered the community, because of just the smiling and the waving. I just think that’s a good lesson for them too, about what you put out there will come back to you at some point.”
Editor’s note: This story initially printed with a spelling error in Tim Hill’s name. The error has been corrected.