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Article updated: 10/17/2012 3:02 PM

Tracy Hill, pioneer in suburban property management, dies at 68

By Tara García Mathewson

The property management industry lost one of its pioneers in Tracy Hill, who died Sunday at age 68.

Hill grew up working in his father's company, Kimball Hill Homes, learning first how to do construction labor. Hill's father built the first planned suburban community in the nation -- Rolling Meadows -- and helped found the network of construction companies that is now one of the largest trades associations in the country, the National Association of Homebuilders.

But Tracy Hill, of Cary, wanted to take a step away from his father and be a self-made man, according to Kurt Kojzarek, who spent a lot of time with Hill when Hill was president of the Homebuilders Association of Greater Chicago and later as an employee of his company, Property Specialists Inc.

Instead of taking over Kimball Hill Homes with his brother David, Tracy Hill founded PSI in 1975.

"As much as he loved his father he really wanted to be his own guy," Kojzarek said. "He wanted to build something from scratch and really build his own legacy."

And he did. Hill grew his company from three employees to 60 and went from working in 10 communities in 1975 to 250 communities today. He was inducted into the Home Builders National Hall of Fame, he was a founding member of the National Housing Credit Certification Board and he was a state director of the Home Builders Association of Illinois.

The full list of committees, boards and commissions on which Hill served is mind-boggling. His sister, Georgia Walter, said he would have liked to travel more, but he stayed too busy with work.

In his later years, Hill's involvement spread beyond his business. He served on the Illinois board for epilepsy research and was an influential donor to Harper College for the creation of a center for the hearing disabled.

And Hill, whose niece called him the "king of one-liners," was also a history buff, according to his sister.

Cathy Dean Ryan took over for Hill in July as president and CEO of PSI, after Hill was diagnosed with lung cancer. She said he incorporated that love of history into his leadership style at the company.

"'Mentor' and 'Tracy Hill' are synonymous," Dean Ryan said. "And when he was mentoring he always wrapped in history into the lessons he was giving you on what or why you should do things a certain way."

But even at 68, Dean Ryan said he was not a man who refused to shift with technology. He always pushed his employees to keep up with technological advances that would better serve their customers.

And no one could ever say anything bad about him as a boss, Kojzarek said. He was there for his employees on a personal and professional level -- both Dean Ryan and Kojzarek looked to him as a father figure, Dean Ryan through 30 years with the company and Kojzarek through Hill's final three.

"He was just such a caring and tremendous human being," Kojzarek said.

A funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 19 at the Cary United Methodist Church, 500 N. First St. Visitation will be from 3 to 9 p.m. Oct. 18 at Davenport Family Funeral Home, 419 E. Terra Cotta Ave., Crystal Lake, as well as at the church from 9:30 a.m. until the time of the funeral service.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations in Hill's name to the Hospice Foundation of Northeastern Illinois.

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