Getting to Know Hilary Ross

By Dale Buchanan

Greetings, Big Red friends and family! I recently spent an afternoon with Gayle Thornton and Dale Buchanan. The following is an abbreviated account of our conversation.  So here goes.

I am an introvert. Let me be clear, being in introvert does not mean that I am shy. It means, I enjoy being alone. I NEED to be alone. Other people are basically “energy vampires.”   This is not that I am afraid of them, it just means that like being exposed to the sun, I must avoid over exposure lest they burn me.

My husband, Tony, who by the way is a great guy, and I have been a part of Big Red since our son Miles was about five years old and we wanted him to be involved in Sunday School. He is thirty now, so that was twenty-five years ago when we began searching for a church home. When we visited the Big Red Church, I remembered attending a Shakespeare play in the courtyard there some ten years previously. We found the Big Red Church a good fit for us.

Early on I became acquainted with my neighbor, Jean Linder, and a friendship was formed that has lasted through the years both as neighbors and members of the Big Red Church. Tony had never been a camper, so camping was not on our agenda as a family. Enter my friend Jean. “Listen you guys, little boys need to go camping, how about going with us to family camp at Camp Tamarack.”  We accepted and it was a great experience.

As I was growing up, music was hugely important to my family. Classical and jazz were a part of our daily diet. Mom was a musician and determined that her children would experience the joys of making music. In our first home we had an organ. For five years I was required to take lessons. My teacher’s name was Gertrude Deltch and to this day that name encapsulates the misery of those lessons. I never left a session that I was not in tears. Finally, we moved and the organ was left behind for a new house with a piano. The piano and piano lessons were a good memory. However, right on the heels of that pleasant memory came junior high and a talent show where I sang, “Cockles and Mussels.”  I am still embarrassed about that performance. Things evened out in high school when a girl friend invited me to try out for the choir at Hollywood Presbyterian Church. To my amazement I was chosen and not my girlfriend.:) 

When Tony and I landed at Big Red, I was totally involved in my career and family, so music was not high on my list of priorities. Enter again my friend Jean. “Hilary, why don’t you join the choir with me. I know you can sing.”  I offered excuses but finally submitted to her gentle persistent arguments. The years have flown by and lifting my voice with the church choir continues to bless me.

One of my favorite things is playing in the Big Red bell choir. This is another thing I owe to my friend Jean. My phone rang and it was Jean. “We have an emergency and need a bell ringer. You have to come to the rescue.”  That was many years ago. I still approach playing the bells with an intensity and reverence not easily explained. I play eight bells and it is demanding, but I joke that it is staving off dementia. 

Dad had his pilot’s license and we often took family vacations flying. One such memorable trip was to the southern tip of Baja. The plane had no instrument control and all navigation was visual. My two brothers and I entertained ourselves with word games and song ditties. To our mother’s consternation, we kept chanting “the family that flies together, dies together” as Dad searched for visuals that would deliver us safely to our destination.

With a BA degree in Spanish from USC in hand, and married to Tony—the new District Attorney in Fresno—I  went to night law school and loved the classes. I feel blessed to have spent my career in areas where it was possible to make the world a better place. My professional life can be divided into three phases. I spent the first phase prosecuting bad guys in the DA’s office here in Fresno.

The second phase materialized when a colleague asked me to run his campaign for state legislature. I took a leave of absence and got involved in politics. After a successful campaign, my colleague was elected and offered me the position of chief of staff. I accepted this challenge and spent the next ten years involved in the mechanics and intrigue of state government commuting weekly from Fresno to Sacramento.

I am now on the third phase of my career serving in the Residency Program at the University of California, San Francisco as Risk Manager and Privacy Officer. My job here is far removed from the days I served as a criminal prosecutor to now being charged with civil law ranging from how to handle law suits to teaching. 

My story ends more or less where it started. When son Miles was about eight years old, I answered the phone and it was friend Jean Linder. “Hilary, there is a dog that needs and a home and he would be the perfect pet for your family. He is a Border Collie and his name is Kid. He could be Kid Ross. Round up Miles and I will take you to meet him.”  The owner said we could take Kid home for the weekend. I knew Tony did not want a dog, but we risked it and took him home anyway. Tony protested, but the next morning I overheard him cancelling a golf date because HE had a new dog.:)  

Comments(4)

  1. Janet Mosey says

    A wonderful article Hilary. It is always nice to get to know the person you smile at but never get around to a long conversation. Your life has been full and thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Emily lawrence says

    Thank you Hillary for sharing, and for your commitment to your community, including Big Red.

  3. Char Lund says

    That was adorable. Your story about having a dog in your family is similar to mine. When Whitney was 11 she asked (not for the 1st time), “Mom, can I have a brother or a sister…(and for the 1st time)…or a dog? We found Jake at the SPCA. We brought him home at 6wks of age. He was a part of our family until 16 1/2 years (2016).
    I enjoyed learning of your life’s episodes, thus far. Much more to come, no?

  4. Rosalie brown says

    You wrote your own story. Good job! Interesting life and it all makes sense, considering the bright, involved and totally thoughtful person you are today. Thank you for being an important participant in FCCF!

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