GRAND CROSSING — Nicole Hill was on the phone with her mom late Easter Sunday, listening as Verlinda Perry-Hill talked with AAA about getting help for her broken-down minivan on South Lake Shore Drive.
Then a loud sound broke up their conversation.
“I actually thought she dropped her phone,” Hill, 24, said. “That’s what I thought it was. I thought she had dropped her phone, and she was going to pick it back up. What I actually heard was the man hit the car.”
Mareo Nutall, 32, who was driving on a suspended license after a January DUI charge, rear-ended Perry-Hill’s minivan about 10:45 p.m., authorities said. Nutall admitted to “drinking three beers” that night, court records showed.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Hill said. “So I stayed on the phone, and I heard people asking her if she was OK. ‘Ma’am, are you OK? Are you OK?’ I knew she was on the expressway, so I was like, 'Who is she talking to on the expressway? That doesn’t make any sense.'”
Verlinda Perry-Hill, 52, a longtime nurse, was heading to work at Brightview Care Center in Uptown when her 2005 Chrysler minivan broke down in the 4500 block of South Lake Shore Drive.
Since “there’s no shoulder or safety thing” on that stretch of the road, Hill said, Perry-Hill pulled to the right lane and put on her hazard lights before she was hit.
Hill rushed to the scene, arriving about 10 to 15 minutes after the accident occurred.
“They told me they took [my mother] to Northwestern Memorial” Hospital, Hill said.
Perry-Hill was treated for extensive injuries, including brain trauma. Hill stayed by her mother’s side as Perry-Hill lay in a coma for three days.
“She never woke up,” Hill said. “She was out when they found her. She didn’t have a pulse, but the EMT got there and got her pulse back started, and her vitals were strong. But she never woke up.”
Perry-Hill was pronounced dead at 12:09 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
“That was my best friend,” Hill said Thursday, fighting tears.
In addition to her daughter, Perry-Hill leaves behind her husband Henry Hill, 52, and three sons, Lucius Perry, 30, Navarrow Perry, 28, and Sterling Hill, 20.
“I was the only girl, so we were each other’s confidantes,” Hill said. “We talked to each other about things we couldn’t talk to anybody else about. It really hurts that she was taken away so suddenly like this.”
Perry-Hill, of the 1400 block of East 69th Street in Grand Crossing, worked as a nurse for more than three decades, her family said.
“She was the best person for that job because she had the sweetest disposition toward people,” Hill said. “I don’t even know how to explain how awesome she was. People just loved my mom.”
Family characterized Perry-Hill as happy, loyal and dependable.
“She was the type of person I could call at any time — for myself, my children, my husband — and she would just be right there,” sister-in-law Patricia Sibley said. “She wouldn’t complain. She wouldn’t murmur. She would just be right there.”
Hill called her mother “a woman of God” who loved helping people. She was even an organ donor, Hill said.
“She never had anything bad to say,” Hill said. “Never. When something negative happened, she’d look past it. Nothing could rain on her day. She just let everything roll off her and took everything in stride.”
Hill said she hopes to embrace her mother’s spirit as she tries to cope with her death.
Nutall, who lives in the 3500 block of West Arthington Street, was charged with aggravated DUI and held on $150,000 bail Tuesday.
“I just want justice to be served,” Hill said. “My mom wasn’t a spiteful person, or a vengeful, vindictive person at all. So she wouldn’t want me to be angry — so angry. The first thing she would’ve said was, ‘It was God’s will.’”
“I have no ill will toward [Nutall’s] family,” Hill continued. “His family was actually there consoling [my family] after the crash. I have no hard feelings toward them at all.”
“This is just going to be a great loss,” Sibley said.