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Thomas “Boot” Burcham Hill December 23, 1951 - October 15, 2021

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Thomas “Boot” Burcham Hill – Husband, father, brother, grandfather, and so much more, passed away peacefully on the evening of October 15, 2021 at the age of 69 surrounded by his family.

Born in Portland, Oregon December 23, 1951 to Jack and Madelon Hill, he spent his childhood in Tigard, Oregon playing sports, learning to fly planes with his brother Marty (which he loved), and helping his two sisters Nancy and Betsy with their horses (albeit a bit begrudgingly). He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1975, and attended flight school immediately after where he flew F-4’s and then F-14’s during his 23 year Naval aviation career. He served as Commanding Officer of VF-143 The Pukin’ Dogs squadron and Air Boss on the USS George Washington (CVN-73), among some of his many career accolades. But his true passion was for flying, with over 3600 flight hours and 960 aircraft carrier landings in his Navy career as one of the finest pilots ever to serve. Upon retirement from the Navy, he worked for Booz Allen Hamilton and other defense contracting firms, continuing his work with military personnel.

It was while at the Naval Academy that he met his wife, partner, and best friend, Karen, and they began their 48 years together – 46 years married. They had two children Bryan and Lauren, as well as several golden retrievers over the years that they treated like children. As a nurse, Karen was instrumental in caring for him throughout his last 10 years battling cancer. With her care, he was able to be a part of all 4 of his grandchildren’s lives, travel, and advocate for health benefits and research into cancers in military operational personnel. This became his greatest fight during his last few years, ultimately leading to the passage of HR 6395 (2021 NDAA), which secured funding for the study on the incidence of cancer diagnosis and mortality among military aviators and aviation support personnel.

Tom is survived by his loving wife Karen; son Bryan and his wife Amity and their daughter Caitlyn; daughter Lauren and her husband Philip and their children Mya, Brayden and Gavin; his sister Betsy, and brother Marty along with their families. He is pre-deceased by his two parents and sister, Nancy. The hundreds of friends, colleagues, and loved ones he had will truly miss how he genuinely touched and affected them during his lifetime. He will be missed by so many, but his impact on all our lives will undoubtedly be felt for generations to come.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to some of the following organizations to help military veterans and their families impacted by cancer (in no particular order):

https://www.elizabethdolefoundation.org/
https://hunterseven.org/
https://www.river-rats.org/
https://www.taps.org/

To learn more about Tom’s efforts to raise awareness on military personnel’s cancers, please visit –

https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/national-security/article236413708.html
https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/national-security/article234008952.html
https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/national-security/article247760775.html
https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/national-security/article233186411.html
https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20201207/CRPT-116hrpt617.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3MfkQacCW_LYN23xLbOdAMtXDbk4jTZ1KCn_AwPokhji0mI8YXjanOtW8

Condolences(14)

  1. REPLY
    Dr Philip E Steeves says

    Karen and family,

    We share your profound sorrow. My heart goes out to you all. The timing was so unexpected. Things were briefly looking optimistic for a while there, him putting back on a pound or two. His sudden downhill turn had to be devastating to you all.

    We in the River Rats Aviator Medical Issues Committee were so fortunate to have had him working on the Fighter Pilots and Cancer project. His input to that cause was invaluable; he may be irreplaceable. Losing him is a tremendous blow to our continued efforts. But his legacy includes the passing of Section 750 in the 2021 NDAA. He can be proud that this was instituted before he, too, ultimately became another victim.

    So Boot has finally lost his years-long battle with Cancer. Always remember that he was another fighter pilot who contracted an ultimately fatal cancer that was statistically unusual—esophageal cancer in a non-smoker, non-alcoholic. And that he was a leader in the fight to get Congress to mandate a comprehensive investigation into the issue of Cancer in military aviators. He fought his own personal, heroic battle with it for years.

    We can be so glad his last hours were relatively comfortable and dignified. I regret that, because of Covid, we never met in person. He’s the epitome of a fighter pilot. I can’t pay anyone a higher compliment.

  2. REPLY
    Dave Seagle says

    Rest in Peace Warrior – we have the watch.

  3. REPLY
    Berny Foerster says

    Tom fought the fight and won so many fights it was unbelievable, His tenacity in life and everything he did is an inspiration to us all. I have prayed for him in the past and will continue to do so. Tom taught us that life is precious and we should all realize that. Live and love those who we hold dear every day, make each moment count for “Time and Tide wait for no Man”.

  4. REPLY
    Dottie Simeona says

    Karen and Family, My heartfelt condolence on Boot’s passing. I learned so much from him during his time at Booz Allen. I recall him talking about his Mom and how many flight hours she had and in recent years fighting for his fellow pilots on cancer awareness. Boot had purpose and passion and made an incredible impact to his family, colleagues, and country. I count myself blessed to have known him.

  5. REPLY
    Stephen Sea Butler says

    Karen: Very sorry to hear of Tom’s passing. He was not just a USNA classmate but also a good friend. I got to know Tom well when I roomed with him and Ed the first semester of Youngster year. Sharon and I enjoyed visiting Tom and you at the Baltimore Army-Navy games hosting tent – good times. If there is anything we can do for you, please let us know. Sharon and I will miss Tom and regretfully send our condolences.
    Steve & Sharon Butler.

  6. REPLY
    Kari Weninger (Seaman) says

    Thank you all for sharing Boot with us! He had a huge impact on our lives and for that I am forever grateful! His work with my mom and the other veterans the last few years speaks for itself; he helped my mom gain focus after my father’s death and kept her moving forward. In addition I owe my entire adult life to him. He recruited my father to come to Booz Allen/Las Vegas, a place I would have never considered moving to. In Vegas I met my husband, step daughter, and built a successful career.

    When I first met Boot, I was in awe of him. I was a senior in high school and had spent most of the previous 4 years in and out of doctors offices and was without a diagnosis. Prior to meeting Boot, my dad mentioned his brain tumor, heart, and various other medical challenges, so when I met Boot saw how full of life he was and heard his stories, I drew inspiration. He showed me that it is possible to keep moving forward, despite when my body tries to tell me no. When I would feel like giving up, I would look back and remind myself of Boot. Without knowing it, he got me through some very difficult times.

    I offer my deepest condolences and hope my story can bring you a smile! His drive and determination will forever be an inspiration for me and so many others!

  7. REPLY
    Richard Moebius says

    Nancy…my sincere condolences to you and your family! I flew with Boot on a few occasions going through the RAG and interfaced with him when he was with BAH in the Pax River area! He was truly a good, caring and ethical person…a professional in everything he did! He has been in my prayers and I now rest assured his soul will Rest In Peace!
    Sincerely,
    Dick “Moby” Moebius

  8. REPLY
    Vince "Aztec" Alcazar says

    I met Boot through my work as the Director of the Aviator Medical Issues Committee at the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association (RRVA). Boot, Betty Seaman (a Navy flyer widow), Phil Steeves (a radiologist and RRVA member), and I formed a team that came together to get Sec. 750 of the FY21 NDAA created, piloted through conferences, and ultimately incorporated within the final version fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization enacted by the Congress. The wonderful thing about that four-ship of personalities was that each of us brought something necessary to solve the bigger puzzle of getting the work done when a committed US Senator came forward to shepherd the legislation. However, there can be no question as to Tom’s vision, leadership, and contributions. Tom always had a firm sense of what ought to come next and how to get things done.

    As that effort unfolded, I grew to respect and cherish Boot’s energy and commitment to helping Veterans coping with cancer. It would have been too easy for Tom to hold himself up in our work as the example of who our work was aspiring to benefit. His selflessness and honor would not allow him to do any such thing. I grieve the loss of Tom’s friendship, motivation, commitment, and can-do attitude–about everything…in fighting cancer and in life.

    More importantly, Tom provided a vivid example of how to face a dangerous disease such as cancer with clarity, courage, and calm. I will carry his torch in RRVA’s work, and keep personal memories of his character and strength alive in my life. Boot would reject the notion that his life lived after his cancer diagnosis was heroic. Here’s the truth: it was. We all know that Tom fought his battle for as long as did against formidable odds owing to his strength and Karen’s constant loving care and steadfast courage. My heart goes out to each of you in Tom’s family for your loss. There is a big, big void where Boot once stood.

    Tom magnificently illustrated that how we die is as important as how we live.

    Most Sincerely,

    Vince “Aztec” Alcazar, COL, USAF, ret.
    Fighter Pilot

  9. REPLY
    Jim McMichael says

    I had the honor and privilege of working with Boot on the RRVA Aviation Medical Issues Committee. He was a fighter pilot’s fighter pilot. You will be missed brother.

  10. REPLY
    Steve McKeown says

    Boot was a colleague and team member for multiple years at Pax River before his move to the West Coast. His aviation experience, sage wisdom and leadership was always welcomed and he will be missed. Condolences to his family from his extended Southern MD family of friends.

  11. REPLY
    Rachel Bombach says

    Dear Karen, Lauren, and Bryan,
    I am truly heartbroken to hear that Boot passed away last weekend. I had the pleasure of working with him on the legislation to study and address the health challenges that our military aviation community faces. I am so proud that this bill passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021; it is Boot’s legacy, and I am certain that it will help others that are either facing similar health concerns or may face them in the future. Boot was whip smart, energetic, and a champion for others. I was hoping to meet him in Washington and celebrate our legislative victory after the pandemic, but instead I will toast to him and his legacy.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you at this very difficult time.

  12. REPLY
    Joel Welch says

    I met “Boot” on the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) in 1995…he was my Mini Boss and worked for him as a Lt in the Air Department. While he initially had a little gruffness to him, as many Mini Bosses do, I quickly saw his warm, compassionate side….a dry sense of humor and a very fine mentor. As luck would have it, we would cross paths in the years to follow and I always appreciated his kindness towards me. Sir, you will be greatly missed.

  13. REPLY
    Doug "Doogles" Law says

    Please accept my sincere condolences on Boot’s passing. I just learned of his passing and incredible battles with cancer. We knew each other in passing at NAS Oceana, and we are both World Famous Pukin’ Dog alumni. I did my department head tour there along with “Snort” Snodgrass in the 1985 – 1987 timeframe; Moon Simmons was the CO. I was later the CO of VF-14 during Desert Shield / Desert Storm. I graduated in the USNA class of ’73 and my brother, Don, was class of ’75. He was likely to have known Boot during their student pilot days. I very much appreciate Boot’s research on cancers and other afflictions endured by F-14 aviators. He was a special Naval Aviator and all-around great man.

  14. REPLY
    angela gundersen says

    I met Boot through my own pain of losing my Air Force pilot husband to cancer. I was fighting a battle with the VA trying to prove that my husband passed away at 51 years old due to his flying time in the Air Force. Boot was incredible his support and passion to help widows like me was overwhelming. We never met but his strength and desire to help brought tears to my eyes every time he would reach out to me ensuring I was ok. My heart breaks for your family but I know he is watching over you and he’s still fighting the good fight up there.

    Much love Angela

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In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to some of the following organizations to help military veterans and their families impacted by cancer (in no particular order):

https://www.elizabethdolefoundation.org/
https://hunterseven.org/
https://www.river-rats.org/
https://www.taps.org/