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Rescue Squad stalwart Fred Hillis dies
Fred Hillis helps distribute a box of toys during the annual Rescue Squad Toy Drive in this file photo.

A man who helped local children celebrate the joy of Christmas and who created laughter with his on-stage antics with the Fairview Jammers has passed away.

Warren County native Fred Wayne Hillis died Wednesday at the age of 80.

Mr. Hillis served as chief of the Warren County Rescue Squad for more than 25 years and was a member for more than 40. Through his efforts, and a small army of volunteers, the Rescue Squad’s annual toy drive grew to become one of the county’s largest charitable events.

At its peak, more than 1,000 children received Christmas toys from the Rescue Squad, with squad members even offering home delivery for years.

“He really took the toy drive to new heights,” said current Rescue Squad Chief Chad Hillis. “He always liked to see the children smile.”

Outside of the holiday fundraiser, Mr. Hillis worked year-round to ensure to Rescue Squad had the equipment and personnel it needed to serve the people of Warren County.

“He was really big on ensuring there was proper communication between all the emergency agencies,” said Chad Hillis. “He’s definitely a big reason we are where we are today. You hate to lose a guy like Fred. It’s tough to let him go.”

In his role with the Fairview Jammers, Mr. Hillis found his niche doing comedy skits.

“Fred was what made the show,” said Randy England, who was a fellow member of the Fairview Jammers, a group which has now disbanded. “He was such a long and stringy man he could do funny things on stage. I remember one skit where he put a water balloon in his pants and he was supposed to make it pop so it looked like he wet his pants. Well Fred never could get that balloon to pop. I believe he had more fun than anybody else in the show.”

Funeral service for Mr. Hillis is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. at Mt. Vernon Cemetery in Rock Island. Obituary information is available on 2A.