Elizabeth Anne Hill (nee Papillon) of Westport died March 29, 2013 at 92 years old. She attended Battle Abbey School, Sussex, England and Queens College in London. She also studied in Vienna, Austria, during the beginning of the Nazi occupation of that country, witnessed Hitler delivering an intimidating speech as well as the constant oppression of the SS troops.
Upon her return to England, and before the beginning of the Second World War, she married Royal Air Force pilot, Flt. Lt. Stephen Hankey, later moving to Paris in order to be close to her husband’s squadron which was stationed in northern France. As the Nazis were invading, and with the British Embassy evacuated, Elizabeth with her daughter Anne, managed to narrowly escape with the help of a White Russian friend who arranged for them to be secretly flown out of an airfield in a small plane back to England.
During the Blitz in London, she volunteered as a driver for the Mechanized Transport Corps. Her knowledge of London was needed since all the street signs had been removed in order to hinder the Germans if they successfully invaded England. First she drove delivery trucks, which were prime bombing targets; later British and American officers. Eleanor Roosevelt, always dressed in her Red Cross uniform, was Elizabeth’s absolute favorite to drive because of the First Lady’s determination to help others with genuine caring, immense energy and sincere kindness.
In 1943 her husband Stephen was killed when flying back to England from one of his many top secret missions transporting allied spies in and out of France. In 1944 she married Denis Wellesley, Viscount Dangan and became Viscountess Dangan but they eventually separated, and she then immigrated to the United States with her three children Anne, Caroline and Richard.
Elizabeth entered her prolific career in the travel industry working for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in New York, shortly after moving to Boston to become the assistant manager of the New England area. In 1953 she married Freeman Hill. In 1954 Elizabeth founded and was president of Esplanade Travel in Boston. She traveled to more than 100 countries exploring, leading tours to new archeological discoveries, places often very much off the beaten path, accompanied by renowned professors in their respective fields for such institutions as the Harvard University Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard Alumni Continuing Education, The New York Public Library, American Museum of Natural History, Massachusetts General Hospital, International Institute, and Women’s City Club Of Boston. Using her British contacts, Esplanade became the exclusive sales agent for Swans Hellenic Tours in the United States. Elizabeth, a specialist in world travel was often invited as the guest of foreign governments to learn more about their countries and promote tourism.
Whether she was being written up in Who’s Who of American Women or in the newspaper as one of the best dressed women in Boston, adventurously leading ski tours in Europe, Chile, or Australia, or trips for museums, she was fearless, always on the go and constantly learning. After selling Esplanade Travel in 1981 she became Vice President at Hartours Travel, where she once again used her British travel contacts and secured the right to be the exclusive sales agent for Serenissima Travel Ltd. in the US, continuing to arrange and conduct tours to such places as China, East Africa, the Hindu Kush and Russia.
Elizabeth and her family lived between Boston and Bermuda for over 30 years. She adored the British island and was very active with the Bermuda National Trust, serving on the public relations committee for many years. Finally, she moved to Westport where she resided for over 25 years. Upon moving to Westport, she began a new profession working in real estate for Doris Matthews and later American Classic Real Estate. She loved living in Westport as it reminded her of her native Sussex.
Elizabeth was born in her family home, Crowhurst Park, Battle, Sussex, England which had been in the family since 1412 when Henry IV granted the estate to Sir John Pelham. She will be returning home to be buried with her many generations of family at St. George’s Church, Crowhurst, Sussex, England.
She is survived by her three daughters: Stephanie Anne Griswold of Westport, Caroline and her husband, Lawrence Huntington of New York, NY, and Westport, and Georgiana and her husband, John Becker of Weston, Mass., and stepsons Freeman W. Hill Jr. of Westport, Curtis Hill of Portsmouth, RI., and Andrew Hill of Newton, Mass.. “Grannie” will also be greatly missed by her 11grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husbands: Freeman Winslow Hill, Denis Wellesley, 5th Earl Cowley, Flt Lt. Stephen Hankey, her son Richard Francis Wellesley, 6th Earl Cowley and her stepson David Hill.
A Memorial Service will be held this summer in Westport.
Arrangements are under the direction of the Potter Funeral Home, Westport.
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