Funeral held for custodian killed in Nashville attack,

Apr 4, 2023, 12:18 PM

FILE - This photo provided by the family of Michael Hill in March 2023 shows Adriene Joy Hill, left...

FILE - This photo provided by the family of Michael Hill in March 2023 shows Adriene Joy Hill, left, with Michael Hill. Family and friends of Michael Hill, the 61-year-old custodian killed during a shooting on Monday, March 27, at a small Christian elementary school in Nashville, gathered on Tuesday, April 4, to mourn their loss. Hundreds turned out for the funeral service at Stephens Valley Church, where pastor Jim Bachmann said the hearts of the congregation were aching for the man they called “Big Mike.” (Family photo via AP, File)

(Family photo via AP, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Mike Hill, a 61-year-old custodian who was among the six people killed in last week’s attack at a Nashville elementary school, was remembered Tuesday for his loving nature, his culinary skills and his faith.

Hundreds of friends and family members turned out for Hill’s funeral at Stephens Valley Church, where pastor Jim Bachmann said the hearts of the congregation were aching for the man they called “Big Mike.”

“He was big, and he was strong, and he was tough,” Bachmann said. “But he was also soft and tender.”

“He hugged my kids and he hugged your kids, and he knew them by name,” Bachmann said. “As the first victim — maybe this is a sentimental thought, but it’s a comfort to me to think that Mike was there to welcome the children through the pearly gates.”

Hill was among the three 9-year-old students who were killed in the March 27 mass shooting at The Covenant School. Police shot and killed the 28-year-old former student who carried out the attack.

Hill was one of the few African American members of Stephens Valley, a mostly white suburban church that he attended because of his friendship with Bachmann. The pastor previously founded Covenant Presbyterian Church, where the The Covenant School was located, and the two met and became friends while working there together, Bachmann said.

The white pastor said he and Hill were “about as different as two people could be” but shared a faith in Jesus through which “we will be together in heaven for all eternity.”

The funeral service blended worship traditions, alternating a powerful hymn from a Black gospel choir with meditative instrumental pieces for violin and piano. It concluded with a rendition of “Amazing Grace” played on the bagpipes and drums.

Hill had seven children and and 14 grandchildren, and he liked spending time with his family and cooking, according to an obituary.

Bachmann recalled that Hill would often bring him freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. For special occasions, he might bring a pecan or chess pie.

“He led me into temptation. He did not deliver me from it,” Bachmann joked.

Addressing the shooting, Bachmann said tragedies like this evoke many emotions besides grief, including anger and confusion.

“People want change. They want action. They want leadership. They want something decisive to happen so that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again,” he said. “Of course we all want that.”

Bachmann said he doesn’t have the answers, but he called on those assembled to follow Jesus’s commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.”

“Love one another and we will have the kind of world we want,” he said. “And we’ll have peace like a river and righteousness like the waves of the sea.”

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Funeral held for custodian killed in Nashville attack,