James “Jim” Tillery joined many friends and family in Heaven on Thursday, October 31 after a courageous battle. During many months of complex health issues and decisions, he fought to remain active and independent and never complained. Jim remained content and upbeat, often commenting what a great life he’d had.
Jim was born July 26, 1936 in Carrollton IL, the only child of Truman and Ethel Keller Tillery. Growing up in Washington IL, his family became great friends with the Manns family whose oldest child Kathryn “Cricket” Manns became the eventual love of his life. They married on September 21, 1958 and enjoyed 61 years together. At the time of his death, they had known each other for 80 years.
Jim and Cricket have three children, Kristi (Kevin) Bruch of Fishers IN, Kelli (Jeff) Hill of Morton IL, and Kurtis Tillery of Iowa City IA, and seven grandchildren, Ryan, Jillian and Meghan Bruch, Eli and Cecily Hill, and Victoria and Jenna Tillery. He was so proud of them all and delighted in having everyone over for family gatherings at “Meme and Poppy’s”.
Jim was known as a hard worker and a great friend. He served as a corporal in the US Marine Corps, drove trucks for Cullinan, operated a Texaco gas station in Morton, and ultimately landed a Caterpillar apprenticeship where he worked his way to management. He retired from Caterpillar in 1996 after 35 years. In his early career, he often accepted overtime or odd jobs whenever he could. Coming from minimal means, Jim worked hard to obtain and renovate their dream home on the bluff where he and Cricket lived for the past thirty years. They always had an open door for friends and family to enjoy one another, the wooded hillside, wildlife, and the picturesque river view.
Jim did little things that made a big difference, like mowing a neighbor’s yard unexpectedly, coaching little league baseball, frequently checking in on friends, and repairing anything he might find when visiting his kids’ houses. His hobbies included fixing everything, from cars and mechanicals to the world’s best whiskey sour, and telling stories from the past. Jim helped friends reminisce with impeccable detail and made grandkids laugh with his colorful narratives. He was a proud stockholder of the Green Bay Packers and enjoyed the St. Louis Cardinals, attending the 2011 World Series with family. Jim and Cricket relished years of travel in their motorhome, spending many winters in Florida making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. Jim never met a stranger.
In his final days, he remained alert and thoughtful. Jim teased his caretakers and quickly became a favorite as they commented he made them smile and was always a gentleman. As he grew weaker, he often shared what a good wife he had. He asked staff for help getting in the shower before she came for daily visits and continued to keep his beard perfectly trimmed. He frequently thanked his family for taking care of him during this challenging time. Jim was the quintessential family leader, leaving a legacy of thoughtfulness, strong work ethic, a great sense of humor, and an amazing appreciation for people. Jim/Poppy will be greatly missed by Cricket, their children, grandchildren, countless relatives and friends, and even Freddie the beagle. But we know it’s only for a little while, and meanwhile he is enjoying fixing things up just right for us all and gathering more stories to share when we join him in Heaven.
Jim was very grateful for his healthcare team. The family would especially like to thank Dr. David Best, Dr. Shawn Piers, Dr. Aaron Benson, Dr. Joseph Evans, Dr. Janice Takata-Rossi, their staff and all of the caregivers at Restmor Morton. The family also expresses appreciation to Michael Grow of the Peoria County Veterans Assistance Program.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 on Tuesday, November 5, at the First United Methodist Church, 116 NE Perry, Peoria IL, where Jim & Cricket were members for over 40 years. Rev. Dr. Timothy Ozment will officiate. Prior to the memorial service, visitation will be at the church from 9-11. Burial with military honors will take place at Swan Lake Memory Gardens later that afternoon. Deiters Funeral Home and Crematory in Washington is assisting the family with arrangements. Jim’s memorial website is available at www.deitersfuneralhome.com where condolences may also be sent to his family.
Memorials to celebrate Jim’s life may be made to Freedom Paws Service Dogs, a group which provides veterans and first-responders who suffer from PTSD with trained service dogs. Contributions will be used toward the training and ongoing care of “J.T.”, a service puppy named after Jim, and other service dogs. Donations may be mailed to Freedom Paws Service Dogs, 1222 North Finney, Chillicothe IL 61523. They may also be made at the visitation or online at https://www.paypal.me/freedompaws2019
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