Menomonee River Hills, People

“As soon as I could see over a counter I was working”

Lori Hill sits in a sun-faded red, cushioned patio chair in her backyard enjoying the sun before it sets on one of Milwaukee’s first 86 degree days of the spring. Birds gather and sing as they eat from a bird feeder hung from one of the trees bordering her backyard fence. Hill’s pit bull, Nicee, leisurely trots along, crunching the grass with her every step.

“When I was younger we did a lot of outdoor things, especially on nice days like this,” Lori says. “We went crabbing. We would just take little styrofoam cups and catch crabs.”

Lori grew up with two brothers — one older and one younger — in a small village called Suamico just 13 minutes away from her birthplace of Green Bay. She describes summers spent with the neighborhood kids, swimming and “coming up with fun things to do.”

She and her brothers would also visit their parents’ store, “Taste of Wisconsin.” The store, located in Green Bay’s airport, sold a variety of items, from wine to Packers souvenirs.

“We would go up there and be entertained while Mom and Dad would be working,” Hill remembers. “[We would] either be helping customers or coloring in the back or playing with different toys.”

The work her parents expected her to contribute to the family business only increased as she got older. At age 16, Hill was already driving long, highway commutes with giant truckloads of furniture for one of the several businesses her parents owned. She would eventually be given the responsibility of placing the orders, as well. Lori was included in all aspects of the family’s business; her father even consulted with her during times of hardship.

Though she moved out of her childhood home at 19, Hill was still entrusted with growing the family business. She graduated from high school and went on to enroll at Green Bay’s technical school. Initially, she studied marketing, a major she says her parents pushed her to pursue.

She graduated with two associates degrees, one in marketing and another in retail management.

“At [the] time I wanted to be a teacher, but I was discouraged from that,” Lori says. “I think my parents … thought ‘this is what we do, and you are to do those kind of things.’”

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When the Manitowoc branch of the family business closed down in June 2001, Lori gained the opportunity to strike out on her own.

At age 33, she made the move to Milwaukee with the plan to start a family with her significant other, who she had dated long-distance for two years prior.

“I got to experience a lot of things that kids my same age probably would never get the opportunity to do, yet I feel sometimes that we were kind of robbed of a childhood because we were being taught all of these different things,” Lori says. “But as I got older, I see how that has helped me to develop into an adult and be responsible. Not just as an employee but as a parent.”

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It was Lori’s significant other that inspired her to get into the field of Human Services.
She currently works as an IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct) consultant, helping disabled adults find ways to remain in their own homes. It’s work she feels she was meant to do, but the path wasn’t easy. She got another degree, this time from MATC, and “had to do not so desirable jobs with not the greatest income.”

But she doesn’t have any regrets.

“I feel my experience from previous work and life has helped me to be able to assist someone in this role that I am in now.”

She adds, “Sometimes you have to meet people, experience things, explore things.”

A small, curly haired boy slowly walks into the backyard and immediately finds comfort in Lori’s arms. He’s introduced as Eric, her 6-year-old son. She also has a 12-year-old daughter.

Hill says she looks forward to seeing her children grow and do the things they love.

Lori beams. “Motherhood has its moments but I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.”⬩

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