Jay Hill: A Gentle Man

Charismatic. Gatsby-esque. A gentleman who knew how to smile.
Those were just some of the words chosen by colleagues and friends to describe Jay Hill, co-founder of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, who died at his home in Dedham, Mass., on Friday after a near decade-long fight with prostate cancer.
“All of the advantages of up-country life and none of the horse manure, ” said Hill, Holliday vice chairman Dick Pantano, quoting from an ad Hill had written early in his career that also described him.
The 67-year-old chairman emeritus of the region’s most acclaimed agency is survived by his wife, Ginny; sons Peter, John and David; and a grandchild.
In a memo to staffers, Hill, Holliday chairman and CEO Jack Connors wrote, “Although we didn’t always agree on everything, no one can ever doubt–no one–that we respected each other and that we each recognized neither of us could have built Hill, Holliday without the other.”
For 27 years, Hill brought style and sophistication to an agency rooted in more blue-collar traditions. “Jay was almost reverent about the written word,” recalled copywriter Bill Heater, who in the mid-1980s worked for Hill creating ads for clients such as Wang Laboratories and John Hancock that set new creative standards for the agency and the industry.
Hill grew up in Los Angeles and Boston and was schooled at Harvard, where he once wrote that “I learned just enough about design to ultimately drive art directors crazy. But I realized I was better at writing. So I switched back from form to substance and landed a job as a copywriter.”
Hill will be buried this week on Nantucket; details about services were not available at press time.