My first significant public administration accomplishment was the first U.S. installation of a completely telephone operated fire alarm system for the City of Syracuse. In 1954 I was Deputy Director of the City’s Bureau of Municipal Research. Aliceann held the same position 10 years later.. Laurence J. O'Toole a former newspaper reporter and later a close friend was the Director.

The old telegraph system consisted of a post on the corner with a red manually operated alarm box. With a tiny hammer the glass was broken and when the lever was pulled the box number was telegraphed to City Hall central station and to all 20 Fire Stations. . If the box was 23 for example it would telegraph on a paper ticker two a pause and then three holes.. Each station had a man standing by to determine the Company was to respond to that box location. There were enormous disadvantages. First off and could only handle fire related emergencies and the box location did not tell the location of the fire. All of the apparatus had to respond to the box not to the fire. One of the worst problems was the temptation for mischief where people would pull the lever and create a great number of very expensive false alarms. Actually the system totally collapsed during Hurricane Hazel which was remarkable for coming so far north and inland with such ferocity. .

While in the Army I had seen on telephone poles small round mental boxes connected by phone to a central dispatch agency. I got in contact with Paul Combs Deputy Fire Chief and a Paul Johnson representative from the New York Bell telephone system and we began a two-year effort to create a telephone alarm system. Chief Combs was remarkable in his encyclopedic understanding of the fire service. Together we spent thousands of hours night and day working out every detail. We faced bitter opposition from Game Well Company which marketed the old system. For example they had a stable of retired chiefs of fire departments who warned that the present system was the best and that the new system would cause loss of life and increase of fire insurance premiums. We also faced bitter resentment from the often partially disabled fireman who would lose their relatively cushy jobs operating the telegraph system. . They protested that the rules of the Civil Service Commission protected their jobs. We discovered that another community in Florida was experimenting with the telephone system. We approach Fire Chief Tom Connolly and urged him to go to Florida (where he had a daughter) and review their approach. He came back as our critical supporter...

We successfully installed a modern telephone alarm system that could report emergencies by voice to central dispatch. The appropriate fire, police, ambulance and other responders were then dispatched to exact locations... False alarms were almost entirely eliminated. In effect we installed at street level the preview of today’s Telephone 911 System.

This was very rewarding particularly since I formed such a strong bond with Paul Combs. We champion many other progressive ideas. As an example Paul’s idea to smother of fire by making only a small opening in the window glass and spraying it with water soaked with detergent to cut the oxygen and choke off the flames. This idea is now these many years later being experimented with by other fire departments which are notably super conservative. The obsolete technique is to smash out the windows to ventilate the fire and squirt the resulting flames. A 3 inch fire hose at full blast will blow out walls and destroy everything in its path.
It was a heartbreaker when two years after I left to come to Washington Chief Combs passed away. This system has saved many lives and most of the credit goes to my dedicated friend.

There were other great friends. Mayor Thomas Corcoran, who hired me, was the first Democratic Mayor in usually Republican Syracuse. He had a broad education in a most unusual way. He had a small printing company and a contracted with Syracuse University to print professional papers. He had developed the skill of absorbing the content while his fingers mechanically set type. He became my great friend after an embarrassing job interview. At the meeting with him and Council President Alfred Haige there was an accident. As I accepted the invitation to sit down my pants ripped open and my very white knee popped out. With this humorous start the Mayor shared a story. He told me the man that I passed outside his office was his 90 year old father. He was born in Ireland and came to America by indenture. He had applied for a job at the construction of this City Hall and was turned down because at that time there was strong Anti-Irish prejudice. In one generation his son was elected mayor. He said this is the American story. He traced Syracuse immigration he marked by changing names of city streets and parks. First to come were the Germans who sponsored Schiller Park. They were followed by Italians, Irish Polish and others. He predicted that the next group would be African American. He was correct. He could not however have anticipated the newest arrivals. They are Vietnamese refugees. Butternut Street home in my youth was almost totally Italian as were my playmates in school and church. That street is now referred to as Ho CHI Min Trail.

At the meeting it was decided that in view of the fact that my annual salary in my previous Wisconsin position was $ 4,900 my new Deputy Director position should show a salary step up for a native Syracusan. They added an extra $100.

Bernard F Hillenbrand

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My Daughter Lisa Hillenbrand is Director of Global Marketing for Proctor and Gamble and is Author of this inspiring article
Written Jul 29, 2012 11:00am

No doubt most of you have seen the Thanks Mom campaign that is part of this summer’s London Olympics. June 29th was my 25th P&G anniversary so I decided to celebrate by thanking P&G not just for my career but also for the positive impact P&G has had on my children.
I joined P&G right after business school and planned to stay no more than a few years to get my marketing skills honed and get back to the East Coast. But each year I worked on new challenges, learned more, made lifelong friendships, and came to love the company, its people and its brands.
Every working mom struggles with working and raising children. From everything I’d read, I assumed that working would negatively impact parenting. Now, as my kids leave home, I’ve found the opposite is true. My P&G job has shaped their character, their experiences and their life choices in so many positive ways.
Without P&G, I might literally have not had Adam, my oldest. I went into pre-term labor at 20 weeks and spent the next 20 weeks on bed rest to lessen the contractions. Among my worries was how we were going to pay the bills. I remember the call from Janet, my HR contact, who said that disability would pay most of my salary while I was gone and that P&G would supplement that to ensure I got my full salary. “You just focus on having a healthy baby,” she said, “I’ll take care of all the forms.”
And, more recently, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, P&G helped me and my family every step of the way through a 7 month leave of absence and my reentry into full time work.
Adam is now 20 and Helen is 18. Throughout the years, they’ve learned a lot about business through me. They critique advertising campaigns and grieved like members of the family when we sold Pringles. Helen learned about the Who, What and How of brand building through a “bring your daughter to work” day I did with colleagues in Geneva (in French!).
I took Helen on her first business trip when she was 3 months old. I’d just gotten back to work and had an agency meeting in New York. I was still breast feeding so she came along, cared for during the day by a hotel nanny. Business lunch break that day was for her!
When Adam was 15, I took him on a business trip to China. I was speaking in front of 500 Chinese colleagues about new marketing models. Adam was part of the talk (see attached photo). He talked about how he and his generation were using the internet to connect. In fact, he said he knew people in Guangzhou already. A group of Chinese kids who lip synced the Back Street Boys songs from their dorm in GZ had just become a global sensation on You Tube. His talk was a huge hit. The first question I got in China a month ago was “So how’s your handsome son?” Justin Bieber watch out!
The biggest benefits to them have come from our 2 international postings – 4 years in Geneva and a year in Singapore. When we first told them we were moving Adam (age 11) said “Mom you’re ruining my life! You’re just doing this for your career.” I talked to them both about how much their Dad and I wanted them to experience the world but they were inconsolable. And I felt guilty as they struggled with their new lives.
Six months later both were gaining fluency in French and happily immersed in real football (soccer) and skiing. Four years later we moved again and then a year later were back in Cincinnati. They went through 3 schools in 3 years, my divorce, 3 sets of friends and all those painful goodbyes every time we left. And I struggled as a single parent.
All the advice books said this was too much change and yes it was tough. But the kids have a resiliency, empathy, a world view and experience with transitions that most of their friends don’t.
Today they are reaping the benefits of all that experience. Adam spent the summer in Senegal, speaking French, living with an African family well off enough for a toilet and hose type shower. The mother was a warm hearted widow who rented rooms to make ends meet. One day at work, I got a call from a 24 year old who introduced himself as “le frère d’Adam.” (Adam’s brother). My new son had a sonorous voice and beautiful French accent. We had a lovely conversation (en francais). “Que le monde est petit,” said I. It is a small world !
Adam will spend the fall semester as a student at St. Cyr, France’s West Point. Founded by Napoleon and Charles DeGaulle’s alma mater, it is one of France’s “grandes écoles.”
Helen is in Seoul, South Korea for 7 weeks on a State Department sponsored language trip. She is living with a Korean family with 3 kids. Helen sleeps on a mat on the floor, eats lots of Korean food and studies daily at Sogong University.
On June 29th, both kids were home. Adam made a steak dinner and we celebrated and thanked P&G for the many blessings in our lives that have come through my job.
Thanks P&G!
Rev. Bernard F. Hillenbrand


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For those of us who are fans of NASCAR racing the Sunday February 18th 2007 Daytona 500 was spectacular for the 180,000 fans. This is the most unusual sport in the world in that unlike other sports where the champion event comes as the last event of the season,
in NASCAR the most prestigious race is at the opening of the season. . In this race at Daytona, Florida the sentimental favorite was Mark Martin. At the age of 48 he was in semi retirement and had finish in the top 10 in 16 seasons of racing. He lost the race by about 2 feet and was beaten by Kevin Harwick .In the closing second as Martin and Harwick were in a furious battle when behind them a spectacular multi car crash totally destroyed several cars and saw Clint Boyer literally cross the line in upside down on the roof of his flaming car. Under the rules on the final lap when a caution is called the race ends at that exact instant. There was some controversy that had the Caution been swifter Martin was ahead and would have won. It is interesting to note that the all-time NASCAR favorite was Dale Earnhardt the Babe Ruth of the sport. In 2001 as I watched on TV Earnhardt was killed in front of nearly 200,000 fans as he hit the wall on the final lap of a Daytona .There is irony in that Harwick is the driver successor to Earnhardt.

The race also recalls a wonderful occasion when daughter Lisa Hillenbrand and I rode the track in the Pace Car at Daytona. She invited me to join her while she was covering the 500 for Procter & Gamble (P&G) which had several cars entered in the race. It was a thrill for Lisa and I to go to the Garage and meet so many of the famous drivers. One was a P&G driver Pattie Mooes one of the sport’s first female drivers. It was only hours before a 500 mile 200 lap race at 180 miles per hour pitted against 41 of the most skilled drivers in the world. Amazingly she and the other drives were calm as if they were on the way to a family picnic. She was a delight. At her suggestion I held her heavily callused hand as she demonstrated the strain cause by the friction of the steering wheel on the bumpy 2.5 mile track during a 4 hour race.

Many people criticize auto racing fans on the grounds that the fans are “red necks” that only go to the races to see the crashes. The facts are that NASCAR is profoundly safety conscious. It has pioneered safety features that have improved non-racing vehicle operations. For example Daughter Laura Hillenbrand in recent articles has pointed out that immediately following Earnhardt death NASCAR conducted a massive driver safety investigation. As a result they intuited new head restraints; installed shock absorbing walls; and redesigned the cockpit of the cars. In the following five years not a single driver has been killed. Again in support of NASCAR they have very strict rules to enforce fairness and they are enforced very promptly and cheaters are very heavily fined much to the satisfaction of the fans.

It also reminded me of a much earlier Indianapolis 500 Memorial Day race when son John Hillenbrand and I were the guests of the then Mayor of Indianapolis, Indiana who is now a United States Senator Dick Lugar. The occasion was the Mayor hosting the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) at their first meeting in the US. John and I had the thrill of riding in the Indianapolis 500 Pace Car.

Racing both horse and auto runs deep in our Hillenbrand family. From the earliest days of kids and I went to the Hagerstown Stock Car Races just outside of Hagerstown, MD. Our favorite spot was the first turn on this all dirt track. This was a place for the most action with risky passing and bump and run. They tried to keep the tract moist but with little success. After a few turns it would be great clouds of dust and the kids and I left the track looking like African-Americans. A publicist for the track was our wonderful friend John Fry and he gave me the honor of being flagman and starting the season's first race.

The interest in horse racing really started with daughter Susan who was taking riding lessons and fell in love with her pony sized horse named Silver. She was crushed when it was announced that the owner was selling the pony. It was nearly Christmas time so I secretly purchased the horse rented a horse trailer and parked it in the nearby schoolyard on Christmas Eve. Early the next morning I walked the pony a block to our Moreland Street house. I tethered her in the back yard against a small post. The kids came down and opened a whole pile of Christmas presents. Suddenly Susan glanced out the window into the back yard and for the first time saw Silver. . I will never forget her wonderful shout of joy. We took Silver to the farm where she lived out her days.

Laura of course got very interested in Silver and all horses. Our farm is across the Potomac from the near by Charles Town, West Virginia Shenandoah Downs Race Track. The kids and I often went to the track on a Saturday evening during the annual meet and had a great time both betting and studying the horses. We were very cautious gamblers. We took turns selecting our choice but usually bet on the favorite to show (the most caution bet imaginable). Laura was our youngest and was particularly impressed with the horses and caught up with the excitement of the races and the wonderful variety of racing folk. As they say, the rest is history culminating with her authoring Seabiscuit.

Rev. Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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It was an honor for the second time to address the Washington D.C summer meeting of Secretary of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). My testimony was on the behalf of hundreds of thousands of people like myself who love one of the victims of CFS. I have had 25 years in that role. It started when my daughter Laura Hillenbrand and her then boyfriend now husband Borden Flannigan were at Kenyon College. She was in her second year had a 3.8 GP student and athlete She was suddenly struck with an undiagnosed ailment that forced her to return home. In a prize-winning story called A MYSTERIOUS ILLNESS. she describes the nature of her illness . In this primer on CFS she describes the hostile atmosphere at that time including confusion of the disease with AIDS. There was also the derisions which called it YUPPIE FLU or attributed it to psychological causes.

We have come a long way from those hostile times. However we still do not have an effective diagnosis and appear to be at a snails pace in finding a cure. My aim is to bring new hope during these doldrums based my experience with battles against other diseases. One of the oldest and most outstanding was the “MARCH OF DIMES” that resulted in the near elimination of polio. I recounted going door-to-door collecting dimes at the height of the Great Depression in an age when ten cents would buy a loaf of bread, a pack of cigarettes or one gallon of Gasoline.

Later I served as a Chaplain at Walter Reed Hospital whose name honors the great victory over Yellow Fever. This was at the early days of AIDS epidemic. AIDS victim from all the services came to this hospital. My first patient was a very young man who had just joined the Army. He was given a whole series of vaccinations against various diseases. We did not know it then but AIDS disables the immune system. I can remember placing a cot next to the patient's bed so that his mother could bring him comfort in his final hours. We now have a very simple diagnosis for a consisting of a mouth swab and a cocktail of drugs greatly prolong the lives of victims.

At the present time under the 21 year leadership of my friend Kimberly Mc Cleary Director of the CFS ASSOCIATION has launched a new research effort called Research Institute Without Walls. One of their missions is to explore techniques, procedures and drugs that have been successful in other diseases to test their effectiveness against CFS. Since this effort is funded by victims their caretakers and their support group it survives by very small gifts. I want to call this the “New March of Dimes” The ten cents that used to buy a gallon of Gasoline now costs four dollars. There are also other support groups that are doing worthwhile work and it is so encouraging to find them working together.

The most moving testimony at the hearings was from very young school-age boys and girls and their parents. Through no misconduct on their part they are living with the great suffering of CFS. The chairman of the advisory group was moved to remark “Because you have CFS today does not mean that you will have CFS tomorrow.” This is an appropriate American Battle cry of hope and confidence. It is based upon past success. I took the occasion then and I take it now to say to daughter Laura, to Borden and other CFS Victims that I love that you have my personal pledge to do all I can to find a cure. I am confident that a similar pledge is also being given by the hundreds of thousands through out the world who have someone they love who suffers from CFS.. Amen.

Rev. Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive
those who trespass against us.” Matthew 6.9

Pastor Dean Snyder of Foundry United Church in his Easter Morning sermon cited this passage from the Lord's Prayer to support his contention that with respect to 9/11 we should stop remembering the hatred associated with this trespass against us. He then symbolically sprinkled pure water on the sanctuary floor to dramatize that cleansing of hatred.

As a nation we were stunned when in four simultaneous air strikes 2,766 Americans and others were killed or severely wounded. There were 460 first responders killed our injured. Rev. Snyder notes however that the 19 Terrorists were killed in the four airplane crashes and that since then master perpetrator Osama bin Laden was shot to death and buried at sea.

Our remembering that sustains hatred has been enormously expensive in American lives and the lives of others. . For the record in the decade since 9 /11 U.S. retaliatory military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan has suffered 6,000 killed and 43,000 wounded.. These wars have already cost more than one trillion dollars and climbing. The costs in innocent lives lost and property destroyed in these two counties is astounding. Domestically the post 9/11 financial costs for Homeland Security are monumental. The foot and other body searches are humiliating and the transportation operating costs are beyond measurements.

There are ample precedents for another way to forgive and forget those who have militarily trespassed against us. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and their simultaneous conquest and enslavement of a huge part of Asia is now fading into history. The United States post war occupation of Japan and the preservation of the position of Emperor gave us means of introducing Democracy into that previously isolated country. For example recent celebrations on the graves of sailors entombed in the Battleship Arizona have witnessed a strengthening bond between United States and Japanese citizens who served in the military of their country during the subsequent war..

On the other side of the world we responded to the Nazi declaration of war against the United States by an incredibly successful military operation. Again our post war response was the Marshall plan. The United States contributed great sums of money to rebuild houses, factories and infrastructure for the German people. In short the United States of America is now leader of the free world in part because we have both declared and practiced the forgiveness requirements from the Lord's Prayer.

More recently we and our allies are withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan. We are joined by Germany and Japan and most of the rest of the world in trying to persuade Iran from developing nuclear war capacity and North Korea from forging atomic missiles. Again with the help of much of the world we are supporting the masses fighting for reform in what we call the “Arab Spring “.

The teachings of Jesus Christ on forgiveness are a part of most of the world's religions and central to the practices of the world’s Psychiatrists and Psychologists. These teachings were initially focused on the individual's relationship to God and to his or her fellow humans. A very strong case is now being made that this forgiveness is crucial to the relationships of nations.

The Easter Celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ at Foundry gave us a fresh opportunity to remember that Christ is called the Prince of Peace and …why.

Rev. Bernard F. Hillenbrand


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