The Chester Business Association (CBA) honored one of the community’s biggest fans recently when its members presented Dr. Joseph C. “Joe” Hillier, dentist, businessman and former Chester resident, with the group’s 2011 Snead-Stebbins Businessperson of the year award.
It is Hillier’s energy and his actions over the last 45 years in the community that earned him recognition as the Businessperson of the Year. Hillier had other plans for that Thursday evening but was detoured by his wife, Susanne, and his good friend, Chris Andreano, to where he was surprised to see his four daughters, sons-in-law and many friends at the CBA’s annual picnic hosted at the home of Jim and Robin Daniels.
“It was a real surprise,” he said. “And it is wonderful [to be honored].”
Dr. Hillier says he has always worked hard from delivering papers to dispatching amalgam. “I’ve been working since I was eight-and-a-half, and I hope I’ll have a job that I can drive to when I am 100,” he said. “I enjoy being active; I guess you can say I am a workaholic.”
Hillier, a 1956 graduate of Thomas Dale High School and an alumnus of Hampden-Sydney College, which he is most proud of, received his Doctor of Dentistry from Medical College of Virginia. He served two years as a dentist in the United States Navy and while his dentist office was under construction at its present location on Buckingham Street in Chester, for a short time, he practiced dentistry in Fairfax. It was upon his return to this community when Hillier began to make an impact.
Quiet and soft spoken, Hillier carried a big stick for the community. He has been an organizer, a petitioner, a historian and a tree-hugger and as he enters his twilight years, Hillier says he has no plans for retirement. “I still feel like a youngster,” he said. “I love the opportunity to be doing the work I am able to do. I love my patients and I am very fortunate.”
In 1961, Hillier was a founding member of the Chester Jaycees, but due to school and serving in the Navy he was not able to serve as an active member. The organization he helped charter in 1972, the Kiwanis Club of Chester, is one that he is very proud of and the work it has been able to do in the community. He says he is still very active, never missing a meeting in 39 ½ years, but has stepped back from holding an office.
The Kiwanis Club continues to be an active club in the community supporting of several charities, scholarships for seniors from area high schools, organizers of the Chester Christmas parade, the annual Flag Day event on the green with the Ft. Lee Army Band and their annual BBQ festival, formerly the Spring Fling. In the early days Hillier recalls some great events they organized. The club sponsored one of the first 10K runs in the area. “It was a very successful event and we had McDonalds as a co-sponsor,” he said. “Runners came from everywhere. We had a ball doing that.” Competition increased in the region for 10K runs so they began a Bolks Marches (People’s Walk) which they held two times a year. The walk provided a purpose for folks to get out and walk a designated area from 3.2 miles and up where they received medals upon completion. After that became popular in the region and the attendance fell, their Spring Fling event has now morphed into the Chester Kiwanis Fall Festival and is their main fund raiser. The Chester Forum was another event organized by the Kiwanis, bringing great speakers and performances to the community. When the forum lost its venue a few short years ago, it came to an end.
In the 1970s, Hillier was active in putting a petition together to widen Rt. 10 to a four-lane roadway. When the four-lanes ended at his dentistry office, he re-petitioned in the ‘80s to continue the four lanes through Chester Village. When all the old trees were removed for the new roadway, Hillier began a tree drive to replace them. It was his work that provides us with the beautiful blooms each spring from the Bradford Pear trees at the west entrance in Chester and in several sections along W. Hundred Road to the post office. “We were able to plant 300 trees including, the Bradford Pear trees,” Hillier said.
In the early 80s Hillier was concerned that the history of Chester was dying off. “I grew up here [Chester Village] and knew most everybody,” he said. “So I started going around to the families and I started collecting oral histories and pictures of their home. I have quite an extensive collection.” Hillier said he will not be writing a book but he did say he needed to gather everything together and give the collection to the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia. From the early efforts of collecting, Hillier suggested to the club to do a fund raiser in the form of a print showcasing drawings of the older homes in Chester. Drawn by Hap Perdue, the print is still in circulation and can be purchased. Hillier said he has a stack of them in his office.
Hillier is not one to talk about himself and is humble about his community work, but he was very touched by being honored by the CBA, and the nice words said about him during the presentation. Naming Chris Andreano, Bob Shrum, Jim Daniels and Scott Fisher, he said, “They all took to the floor and said some very nice things [about me.]”
Bob Shrum, longtime friend and local businessman, owner of the Flagstop Car Washes throughout the area, said, “Joe is probably one of the most community-minded people in all of Chester. He absolutely loves the community and loves to give back. The only thing that he ever did wrong was to join the wrong civic group. He should have been in the Rotary Club. But the Kiwanis Club of Chester is truly blessed to have him as a Kiwanian. He is Mr. Kiwanis.” Shrum added that Hillier never hesitates when it comes to support of all the civic groups and their activities in the community.
Chris Andreano, franchisee of Uno’s Chicago Restaurants, said, “I was thrilled to see my friend and business mentor, Dr. Joe Hillier, receive the Businessperson of the year award from the Chester Business Association. Doc welcomed me to the Chester community back in 1991 and has always been there for me as well as the countless goodcauses he supports in the community.”
Hillier will be celebrating his 45th anniversary of his dentistry practice with his staff this August.