The life of a remarkable woman was fondly recalled on Friday when the motor racing world said goodbye to Bette Hill, wife of one world champion and mother to another.
In many ways, Bette Hill was the ‘First Lady’ of motor racing thanks to her staunch support for husband Graham and selfless work helping other wives in an era when tragedy would intrude, almost on a weekly basis.
On November 29, 1975, Bette became a sufferer herself when Graham’s Piper Aztec crashed in fog while returning from a test session at Paul Ricard, killing the double world champion, Tony Brise (a brilliantly talented 23-year-old protégé of Hill following his retirement from the cockpit that summer) and four members of his eponymous F1 team.
As F1 journalist David Tremayne recalled during one of the many moving tributes on Friday, Bette attended five funerals in one terrible week (the sixth was on the same day as Graham’s service at St Albans Abbey).
The loss of her beloved husband and the task of bringing up Damon and his two younger sisters received a stinging blow from left field when it was discovered that paperwork associated with the aircraft was invalid, leaving members of the other five families with no option but to bring legal action against the Hill estate.
Bette’s life changed in every direction, the hectic social whirl of parties and personalities stopping overnight as the Hill family was forced to somehow regroup under severely reduced circumstances.