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Eulogies For Linda Tillman (3/15/17)

Most of you are aware of Linda’s passing on Feb 28, 2017 via e-mail update of March 2nd.  Many of you were at Linda’s funeral on March 9th at the Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in Satellite Beach. It was a beautiful service honoring Linda and welcoming her to a new life with her creator. Eulogies were read by myself, Laurie, and Ginny. I wish to share these with those who were not able to attend the service as a remembrance to Linda.

 Thanks to all those who sent cards, condolences, well wishes, prayers, flowers and donations in Linda’s name. We love you all.

 Dick, Linda, Laurie, LIbbie, Susan, and 9 Grandchildren

Dick’s Eulogy to Linda Tillman 6/8/1938 - 2/28/2017                           

I was a lucky guy to marry an amazing woman, Linda Tillman. But I only have a few minutes in this part of the service to talk about her.  It would take me many hours to do justice to that. So I have picked out a few things that many of you already know about her.

 A FEW of you met Linda in this church, when we moved from Orlando to Satellite Beach, in 1976, over 40 years ago. This was our first Church from the get go, a few Rectors before Father Todd Schmidtetter. We are probably close to the oldest members here. (Agnes Wichmann, Ginny Elmer / Mazie Saunders to recognize three)  Many here NOW know Linda as a Choir member, Episcopal Church woman member, Daughters of the King member, Altar Guild member, Cursillo participant, and long time Church Christmas decorator, along with Roz Bates. My only involvement in the decorator part was to transport poinsettias from our house to the Church, and our 3 daughters, when they were young, were sometimes reluctant to share their Mother, while she sang in the choir, for the Christmas Eve service and both the 8:00 and 10:30 Christmas Day services.

 OTHERS here knew Linda through her involvement with the International J/24 Class  For anyone who is not a sailor here, the J/24 is a 24-foot sailboat. I’m sure there are some J/24 sailors here.  For 10 years, 1981-1991, Linda was the one who pretty much planned, managed, and controlled world-wide sailing events for some 2,000 members in 16 different countries. This included editing and publishing a slick 100-page bi-annual full-color publication. She also had the help of Agnes Wickmann, a long time member  of this Church.

 Later, Linda was asked to edit the quarterly publication of the International Sunfish Class, one of the largest worldwide single-handed racing classes. (And I see some Sunfish sailors here). She did this for several years.

 Linda not only used her talents in these areas but was also a fierce, but always smiling, competitor in every class boat she sailed. I will speak of these now, because Linda was much too modest to ever talk about them herself. She competed in 2 US Sailing Championships, qualified for the finals of the US Women’s Sailing Championship, competed in 4 J/24 World Championships, 6 Sunfish World Championships, an E-Scow National Championship and in 1985 raced in the first Women’s World Keelboat Championship. Not to mention that she was the top women competitor in one of the Sunfish North American regattas. Of course, at the local level, she was pretty much unbeatable, either by sailors here or at Lake Wawasee in Indiana, where we spent many of our summers.

 One boat I have not mentioned is the Snipe. That is significant because it was through the Snipe that we met. July 25th 1959 to be exact. I had traveled from Florida to Michigan to compete in this Snipe regatta, in which Linda was on the registration committee. When I came to register, she said, “You mean you came all the way from Florida to sail up here?” I considered this a moment of interest, and things progressed from there.

 Of course, the most important phase of Linda’s life, other than our 55 plus years of marriage, was her role as a Mother and Grandmother.  She raised 3 wonderful daughters, (Laurie, Libbie, and Susan) who are here now with their husbands, and has 9 grandchildren, 5 who are here now, 3 having just arrived from Seattle on the red eye this morning, and I am just now seeing them!

 And now, our oldest daughter, Laurie Ward, is here to share her thoughts about that phase of her mother's life.

 Laurie’s Eulogy to her Mother:

 My mom was an extraordinary lady who represented every good trait one could want in a mother.  She took great pride in her job caring for her three daughters (and also our dad): she prepared the most delicious meals, kept a meticulous house,    nursed us tenderly back to health when sick, sewed, sang in our church choir, volunteered at church and in our many activities, and hosted many parties for my dad’s work associates. She was very smart and oh so pretty.  Most of all we knew she loved us. As we grew older, she enjoyed painting, knitting, crocheting and needlework.  She also skied, canoed, kayaked, played bridge, golf, and tennis and enjoyed yoga but her most favorite activity was, of course, sailing. She set the bar high in everything she did and thus, was a role model for so many. And, for these reasons, as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to emulate my mom. 

 Growing up, our family enjoyed spending free time together,  through our after school activities, sailing on the weekends, vacationing at the lake or just playing cards around the dinner table. One of our favorite card games was 5-way solitaire, and let me tell you, it was fast and furious!  In fact, a competitive spirit was a common thread among us Tillmans, fostered equally by both Mom and Dad. When a family moves around a lot, as Air Force families do, you depend on each other more than most as you adjust to your new surroundings.  Mom always kept a positive attitude about moving and saw it as an opportunity to “bloom where you are planted,” a phrase that has stuck with my sisters and me through the years as a reminder to make the most of where you are, to “live in the moment.”   Because these times brought us closer, we appreciated our family even more, and even when we had our own families, we always looked forward to the times we could spend with Mom and Dad.

 We girls had a strong role model in our mom, who was smart as a whip and who taught us the value of hard work and doing our best at everything we did.  Mom (and Dad for that matter) were sticklers for doing things a certain way, (which also happened to be the only way) and once we girls grew up and married, we came to be collectively referred to by our husbands as “Till-women” (we females who do things the “Tillman” way). I take great pride in being compared to my beautiful and talented mother (and sisters!) and even give Dad some of the credit for our “particular” personalities!

 My mom always had a fun sense of adventure! She wasn't afraid to try something new and she loved planning a fun outing. She was happiest being at the helm, not just of her Sunfish, or the J/24 with her all-women crew, but at the helm of life. One of her greatest lessons was teaching us that the world is bigger than ourselves, that it is important to give of yourself, to be a friend to others. She truly enjoyed volunteering her time to help out and get to know other people.  She was always there to help us, whether we were moving into a new home or awaiting the birth of our children.  She was someone I could count on to be in my court, to cheer me on when things got tough, and to simply BELIEVE in me.  She encouraged me to develop real friendships and to take the time to nurture them, as I would need my friends during all the ups and downs life brings.  Sure enough, Mom’s friends were there for her (and our family) every difficult step of the last 4 plus years. 

 Mom also taught us about the beauty of the world around us. She was most happy on or around the water and truly enjoyed both lake and riverfront living during the last 30 some years. Mom loved spending time with friends and entertaining and did so often. She enjoyed a beautiful garden and tended it with care. She loved to feed the summer birds at the lake and always made sure her bird feeders were full. When she wasn’t out sailing or racing (and leaving everyone in her wake) she was spending time with her grandchildren hanging out on the pier, swimming or going for a boat ride.

 Oh how I’ll miss her voice on the phone, calling to learn about my family’s latest activities or to share a favorite recipe or good book one of us had just discovered.  What I wouldn't  give to hear more of her words of wisdom and practical advice. We will surely miss Mom’s bright smile and friendly attitude, and we are all the better for having known her. She will be remembered with much admiration and respect.

 While I still wonder why she had to endure so much over the last 4 1/2 years, I do know this:  My parents lived their life as fully  as they could and we should all be inspired to do the same. I am comforted knowing that where she is now, she is surely delighting everyone with her engaging smile, her sweet spirit and her sunny outlook. Mom, you are forever in our hearts and we will endeavor to honor your memory by living our lives as you lived yours: full of grace, kindness and sincerity together with determination, courage and bravery…So proud and grateful to call you my mom, my friend and my daily inspiration. 

 Ginny Ward’s Eulogy to her Grandmother ‘Mum’:

 An island separated by two rivers. A family separated by thousands of miles. And a home to join them all. These were a few of the many gifts that Mum shared with us throughout her life.

 Mum was the most meticulous woman I knew. She had a specific way in which things ought to be done and when they weren’t done in that fashion, Bapa was usually the first to hear it.

 But it was her meticulousness that aided her in every strength she possessed. She was a world-renowned sailor, but you wouldn’t know it unless you stepped foot inside her trophy-ridden home. She raised three remarkable daughters, all who have instilled countless values within us. She served as writer, editor and publisher of an international sailing magazine. She was, in two words, wonder woman.

I wouldn’t truly recognize her strengths until I watched her battle her brain tumor.

 When she lost her hair to proton therapy. Hair is what makes a women feel whole. But she went about by poking fun at her new wigs. She told me she’d never worry about having a bad hair day again.

 When she and Bapa came to visit us for Christmas a few years back. She was tired. She was battling her tumor with every bit of strength within her. But she made Bapa get aboard that plane with her to come see us. She had a small seizure the morning they landed. I cried because I thought I’d never be able to connect with her again. Within a few days, she was reconstructing a puzzle with us. She told me the story of how she and Bapa fell in love. It was a Christmas I’ll never forget.

 When she lost mobility in her right hand. Knowing Mum, she wouldn’t let her seizures defeat her. She was so well-written. I missed her lovely cursive, especially after struggling to read Bapa’s scribbles. My birthday rolled around in the next few months. I received a card from her and Bapa. I instantly recognized her writing. She must have spent hours at her desk, willing her pen to the paper.

 When she decided to go through with her last surgery, because she wanted to spend one more year, one more month, one more day with the love of her life, with the lives they had created and on the waters she spent her life sailing on. She wanted it all. Because she was stubborn and strong and determined to finish the race.

 But she was also a patient woman. Amidst the chaos that surrounded her with nine grandkids running around and dinner to be made and a house to be cleaned, she found time to enjoy the simpler things in life. After sailing and windsurfing and swimming, we dropped everything for happy hour.

 It was Mum who always gathered the troops and helped us find our way to the porch. Happy hour was always a part of the schedule. Whether it was a cool spring evening on Merritt Island or a warm summer night on Lake Wawasee, the hour consisted of food and friends and family clustered together, facing the warm waters that welcomed us back every year. We all squeezed as many chairs around as space would permit. Our conversations would center around the day’s activities and school and work and politics. Sometimes, an hour wasn’t enough.

 I often think about how she watched the same sun set over the same horizons her entire life. But it was a different sunset each time. And it was with different friends and family members. And as she struggled to make it through various obstacles throughout the course of her life, she remembered to fix her gaze upon the one thing that she knew would blow her away every time.

 My brothers and I said our last goodbyes the other week. We reminded her of all the memories at the lake and the river. We laughed and we cried. We cried a lot. But we left with a sense of comfort in knowing that she would be in a better place. That she was setting over this horizon one last time. That she would find a new horizon, where she’d never have to set again.

 I’m ready for this summer. I’m ready to pack up everything and spend a few days in the cottage that raised me. And I’m ready to see Mum. She’ll be the strong puff that strikes the lake’s surface, challenging me to hike over the boat’s edge. She’ll be the stubbornness in my mom when I don’t make my bed. And she’ll be the setting sun. The sun that grazes the water’s surface for a few defying moments before setting over the horizon.

 Mum was a meticulous woman. She wouldn’t dare miss happy hour.