Debbie Hillman, aka “the bike & buggy woman,” 71, of Evanston, died March 23.
She grew up in Chicago’s Petersen Park and the suburb of Highland Park, and graduated with a philosophy degree from George Washington University. She was a self-employed gardener, a leader in the Illinois “local foods” movement, a democracy consultant and an impassioned fighter for equality and access for all.
Debbie was preceded in death by her dad, Fred, and mom, Betty (Corwin), and is survived by sisters Judy (Gordon), Laurie and Bonnie (Shay), and daughter Saya and son-in-law Pete.
In a tribute posted online, Saya Hillman wrote that her mother was: “An activist. A connector. A philosopher. An odd duck. A loner. A biker. A planter. A grower. An Evanstonian. A community member. An organizer. A learner. A writer. A DIYer. A self-taught’er. A deep thinker. A deep feeler.
“With a deep heart.”
Hillman continued: “I’m heartbroken that the running list I have of things to bring up next time I see her will forever remain unchecked.
“So in its place, another list – in honor of Debbie, please glare disapprovingly at the following:
- high heels
- condo developments
- office jobs
- big banks
- iceberg lettuce salads
- leaf blowers
- read books
- get your hands dirty
- bike or walk by the lake
- take public transit
- take side streets instead of the highway and stare out the window
- grow plants
- eat local
- support small business
- clip articles
- share handouts
- wear flow’y pants
- end the work day at 3 p.m.
- let the sun beam on your face
- choose sugar over Splenda
- never feel you have too many folders or containers
- carry multiple purses
- send handwritten cards
- write letters to the manager when service is good
- visit the never-visited gym teacher on parent/teacher conference night
- if you can’t afford to send your child to the school of your choice (Montessori), barter for tuition (school garden and newsletter services)
- splurge on pens, sleeper cars, Whole Foods, and bagel sandwiches
- follow her on twitter (without expectation of new tweets)
- visit and share her website
- sit in coffeehouses with a mug of real coffee (no decaf), barista banter and reflective thoughts
- fight the man
- tell people they matter, they’re heard, and they’ve impacted you
- redefine “success” so that the definition fits what you value
- if there are eight paths and none feel right, choose the ninth, without worry about what if, what others will think, or if it’s the right choice
- and make your loved ones feel encouraged and supported whatever they choose and whomever they are.”
For memorial details, visit https://macncheeseproductions.com/debbie-hillman/.
I didn’t know Debbie in life but, having read this loving obituary, I feel as though I did. Thank you so much.
This makes me so sad. I didn’t know her well but every time I saw her she had a kind word. She was lovely. I’m broken hearted for all of us.
I am so sad to hear about our collective loss of an iconic woman. She and I shared the same initials and middle names, met at Family Focus when our children were toddlers, subsequent playmates and classmates. Debbie was instrumental in political changes, a brilliant community spokesperson, and a friendly, loving soul. I am grateful that I saw her last summer with my sisters and mother and for having I known her. I am deeply sorry.
I will miss Debbie. I will miss having coffee with Debbie. She was warm, insightful, with ideas she shared with gusto. She kept a gartenmeister fuchsia she bought at Anton’s in 2017 alive for many years. She approved of Evanston changing its chicken-prohibiting ordinance in 2010, and within the past year, she wanted all of us to support the Wild Onion Market in Chicago.
I remember attending meetings in Debbie’s living room, with neighbors and interested parties, taking about zoning and projects proposed. I recall Steve Bernstein – alderman at the time – was there, too. I had a suspicion then, that she was the smartest person in the room.
I propose that every coffehouse in Evanston leave one table open, waiting for Debbie, with a parking space next to it for her bike and trailer. Seeing her sitting there always invoked Joy.
Hi Kate, you hit it on the head. I’d constantly see her at Cupitol and Bagel Art. Always so friendly. A real Evanston institution. How are you? Karl
Saya captured her wonderful spirit mom perfectly. She’ll be deeply missed in our community.
Debbie will always be in my heart. My condolences to her family. -Peggy Tarr
She shall be missed.Debbie was one of a kind. Every time i ran into her, the word iconoclast floated thru my mind. I loved seeing on her bike. She was a special person.
I used to enjoy chatting with Debbie at the old Starbucks on Dempster. She was a kind, interesting and one of a kind person who willl be truly missed. I am sorry for your loss and to hear of her passing.