Farewell, Hot Dog Lady


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Posted Online: Oct. 02, 2012, 5:36 pm
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By John Marx, jmarx@qconline.com
On Friday, Oct. 12, Joan Hill will rise at 4 a.m. as she has every April through November weekday for the past 20 years.

With a heavy heart, she'll pack her trusty hot-dog cart with goodies, knowing it will be the last time the "Hot Dog Lady'' will open for business.

For seven months a year over two decades, Ms. Hill has mixed business with friendship, handling the lunch needs of thousands in downtown Rock Island. She has been a mother, sister, pal and sounding board to countless customers through the years.

Her patrons have come from around the globe, from China to Rock Island, wanting Chicago-style hot dogs or one of the famous bratwursts cooked up by Ms. Hill, a Wisconsin native.

"I have made so many wonderful friends,'' Ms. Hill said as she prepped her cart for another busy day along the plaza in downtown Rock Island. It was moments before the Hot Dog Lady would post a simple handwritten note telling customers of her plans to take a break.

"I have wondered and worried about my regulars since I made the decision to close up shop,'' she added. "So many people have been loyal to me through the years, and I will always appreciate that.''

Ms. Hill said she had many reasons for going into business for herself 20 years ago. Her first-rate hot-dog stand has been an extra income source and the perfect opportunity to get the latest word on the street from customers.

She has worked through stifling heat, wind, rain and cold. Several times, Ms. Hill witnessed all four seasons during her usual shifts.

"The heat of this past summer kind of sealed things for me,'' she said. "I lost my husband, Gene, two years ago, and it hasn't been the same without him. And the weather took it out of me.''

Support from her children -- Todd, Debbie, Lisa and Sheryl -- made the decision to step aside easier.

"They know how much work it takes, and they believe I deserve a break,'' Ms. Hill said. "They are great kids and have always been there for me. I have sold my house in Colona and plan to go to Arizona his month to see Sheryl for a break. It's just time.''

For 19 of her 20 years along the plaza, Ms. Hill has been assisted by Clyde Harris, a 90-year-old Rock Island retiree. He said Rock Island is losing a business treasure.

"She's an inspiration,'' Mr. Harris said of Ms. Hill. "We have had lots of fun through the years. Joan is a wonderful lady. I guess I'll have to find something else to fill my mornings.''

Out of respect for Ms. Hill, I will not post her age. Her energy level, though, is that of someone half of what her birth certificate reads.

"I have a job where I work four nights a week at Jumer's Casino,'' Ms. Hill said. "So I'll stay busy. I just won't be along the plaza every day.''

And that will be a shame.


Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or jmarx@qconline.com.

















 



Local events heading








  Today is Tuesday, July 22, the 203rd day of 2014. There are 162 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Everybody is invited to go on a moonlight excursion next Monday evening on the steamer New Boston. The trip will be from Davenport to Muscatine and back.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The mayor and bridge committee let a contract to the Clinton Bridge company for a $1,125 iron bridge across Sears canal near Milan.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Injunction proceedings to compel the Central Association to keep a baseball team in Rock Island for the remainder of the season were contemplated by some of the Rock Island fans, but they decided to defer action.
1939 -- 75 years ago: The first of the new and more powerful diesel engines built for the Rock Island Lines for the proposed Chicago-Denver run, passed thru the Tri-Cities this morning.
1964 -- 50 years ago: The Rock Island Rescue Mission is negotiating for the purchase of the Prince Hall Masonic Home located at 37th Avenue and 5th Street, Rock Island.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Quad Cities Container Terminal is being lauded as a giant business boon that will save several days and hundreds of dollars on each goods shipment to the coasts. The Quad Cities Container Terminal is the final piece of the puzzle that opens up increase access to world markets, Robert Goldstein said.








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