Harold Lewis Tiller
Harold Lewis Tiller, a hardworking, generous, kind, loyal and strong man, died Aug. 1, from complications of Alzheimer’s at the age of 85.
After growing up in a family of six siblings in Carthage, and graduating from the Carthage High School with the class of 1945, he went on to serve his country in the U.S. Navy in the time of World War II, receiving an honorable discharge. After the war, he attended Panola College, where he walked on and played on the 1948 state championship football team.
He dabbled in several careers, including dairy farming and wildcatting, until he met and later married Betty Jean Ham on May 31, 1955, and settled down in Orange. He worked at Allied Chemical and Owens-Illinois as an instrumentation technician and retired from Allied Chemical in 1986, but never quit working.
Between tending his pine tree farm in East Texas, he built playhouses and swing sets for his six beloved grandchildren, helped construct church buildings during mission trips, and restored antique bird houses for Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. Even his beautiful home of 50-plus years was masterfully crafted by his own hand. And he and his wife of 58 years, never stopped making improvements, adding several additions during their years of living and hospitality, the last a guest suite on the back of the house at the age of 77.
He loved music, amassing a large library ranging from the classic country hits of Eddie Arnold, Jim Reeves, Hank Williams, Chet Atkins and Willie Nelson, to the beautiful piano selections of Floyd Cramer and Van Cliburn, and a collection of genres in between. Situations often triggered a song to his remembrance, and he would then spontaneously sing a few bars of fitting lyrics. He played the tuba as a teen, and, as he loved to tell stories, he recalled that the first day that he brought his tuba home from band class, his dog must have thought that something had a hold of his master. As he stood barking at the tuba, our mischievous Dad leaned forward and blew a long and blaring low note. That dog scrambled under the house, not wanting to have anything to do with that contraption! This is just one of many tales he liked to repeat with a smile on his face and a chuckle in his voice, and gives a glimpse of his humor which lasted his lifetime.
An avid Bridge player, he enjoyed Saturday night neighborhood, and friend Bridge parties, where he could also indulge in delicious treats like Betty’s “Five Flavor Pound Cake” with a cup of percolated coffee. As well, he stayed competitively involved during retirement in a men’s Bridge club and Duplicate Bridge. After participating in tournaments locally and throughout the country, he accumulated points necessary to become a Life Master Bridge player in 1993.
There’s not a state in the United States that he hasn’t traveled within, and he’s been to 26 foreign countries, five while serving his country in the Navy in 1946 and 1947, and still others on pleasure trips with family and longtime friends.
But the talents and interests don’t end there. He coached Little League, assisted on boy scout camp outs, served as a deacon of First Baptist Church of Orange where he was a long-time member, flew private airplanes, pulled water skiers behind his boat, raised roses, grafted pecan trees, stood on his head to prove he was still “young” on just about every birthday from his 50’s to well into his 60’s, grilled burgers at the annual Lions Club Carnival, drove boat tours for Shangri La, and accompanied friends to dinner and theater performances.
Even with all these interests and accomplishments, his most important treasure was his family. He loved his wife Betty Jean, and lovingly raised three children in Orange. Their son, Timothy Kevin Tiller, and his wife Connie, now live in Houston. Their daughter Carolyn, and her husband Byrne G. (Gil) Wilson, also live in Houston, with their three children, Graham Tiller, Erin Grace, and Anderson Ross Wilson. Their youngest daughter, Amy and her husband Richard Landry, live in Granger, Tx. with their three children, Allison Paige, Logan Hughes, and Luke Richard Landry; he has a brother and sister-in-law, John P. (Phil) and Nancy Tiller of Carthage, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
He is preceded in death by his father and mother, Ray D. Tiller, Sr. and Mary Viva Phillips Tiller; sisters Mary Lynn Weir and June Alexander; and brothers R.D. Tiller and Jack Tiller.
Our heartfelt gratitude to Hilda Eagleton and her staff at Quality Living in Houston, for the loving care they gave to Dad.
Graveside services will be held Thursday, Aug. 15, at 10:30 a.m. at Glenfawn Cemetery in Rusk, County. A remembrance gathering will be held on Friday, Aug. 16, at Claybar Funeral Home in Orange, from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Although he loved flowers and plants, he was also very practical. Memorials can be made to either First Baptist Church of Orange, or the Alzheimer’s Association.