MARQUETTE, MI. - James Donald "Mayo" Tillison, 85, of Marquette passed away early Sunday morning, March 2, 2014 at his home of 49 years after a brief illness.
Don was born in Sault Ste. Marie, MI on March 31, 1928, the son of William and Catherine Tillison. He was an active member of St. Louis the King parish. In 2012, thanks to research done by his daughter, Cheryl, Don discovered he was Native American. He became a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. He and Mary Lou met many new friends in the tribe and truly enjoy the gatherings together.
On September 16, 1950 he married the love of his life Mary Lou Eva Holliday. He promptly whisked her away in his 1939 coupe that used more oil than gas, to a honeymoon watching the Tigers. He was a true romantic.
Don retired from the Jewel Home Shopping Co where he served hundreds of customers across the central U.P. He was well liked by his customers, many of whom became lifelong friends. Don was consistently one of the top salesmen in the Midwest which was a point of pride for both he and his family. Everyone in the towns he served knew the "Jewel Tea man."
After retirement, Mayo, being a true people person took a job as a substitute school bus driver for nine years. He followed that up by delivering Meals on Wheels enjoying his visits with those he served.
He loved sports especially the Detroit Tigers, Red Wings and NMU hockey. He was a Detroit Lions fan which wasn't always easy to do. Mayo, as those who knew him well, played and coached softball for 50 years. He coached fast pitch softball both at Hurley field and in the keg league and earlier senior little league baseball.
His Northwoods Supper Club fast pitch team enjoyed many after game celebrations at the Northwoods courtesy of Ron and Artis Klumb. He met many lifelong friends (even though many had "discussions" with him during and after the games). Mayo never liked losing much, but once the game was over, it was over.
He respected those who competed as hard as he did. His greatest coaching strength was the gift of helping people believe in themselves. Many of those he coached stayed in touch with him long after their playing days were over. He coached "ball" into his 70's.
He loved to play cards with family and friends teaching his children to play double deck Pinochle. He enjoyed weekly games with his neighbors, John and Ann Peterson and friends, Bob and Sharon Roshak, always the gals against the guys.
He also enjoyed visiting the U.P. casinos with Mary Lou trying to beat the one armed bandits. He had a love hate relationship with bowling much like many golfers I am told. He loved to take the grandkids bowling to offer his "advice" on their technique which in itself could be enjoyable just to be part of the whole scene. He really liked to fish with his boys if it was 75 degrees, the water was calm and the fish were jumping in the boat.
Don was a great father and always appreciated his best friend, Mary Lou. He was always grateful for all she did. He knew he was a lucky man and often called her his rock. One of the greatest gifts he passed on to his children was his work ethic. One thing Pops always taught his kids was that it didn't matter to him if you played on a team, any sport, but if you started you didn't quit. You start with a team you hang in there all season. It's something that was never forgotten. He taught us all if that we wanted something then we needed to work for it. He led by example. All of his children went on to earn college degrees with a few earning advanced degrees.
He is survived by his wonderful wife, Mary Lou (Holliday) and 5 children, Stephen (Marilee Dukart) of Menomonie, WI, Cheryl (Greg) Gustafson of Marquette, Kevin (Bonnie Campbell) of Marquette, Judy (Michael) Ebbing Hamilton, OH, Jim (Kenlyn Hubbard) of Marquette. He had 13 Grandchildren who he was very proud of, Mandy (Brian) Larsen of Minneapolis, MN, Kyle (Rochelle) Tillison of Rochester, Naomi (Jim) Burtrum of Ashland, WI., Lindsey Lamack of Milwaukee, Josh (Air) Gustafson of Minneapolis, Jason (Kelly) Ebbing, Abby (Alan) Tsao of Chicago, Grace Tillison of Marquette, Rachael Tillison of Marquette, Sarah Tillison of Chicago, Kenny and Michael Hubbard of Marquette, Charlie Hubbard of Houghton; also 7 nieces and a nephew. He also had 9 great grandchildren who all brought joy to he and Mary Lou.
He was preceded in death by his son, Jeff; his parents; his father and mother-in-law, Don and Madge Holliday; his sister, Margaret Oertel; brother-in-law, Baron Oertel; nephew, Curtis Holliday and a niece, Ann Marie Holliday.
The Tillison family would like to thank all of the medical staff of Marquette County who worked so hard to provide Don/dad with a high quality of life. His medical team was patient, kind and gave precious time for him. Special thanks go out to Dr. Tom Huffman and his staff (Marcie) and to Dr. Joel Johnson.
Friends may call at the Canale-Tonella Funeral Home on Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. where a parish prayer service will be recited at 5 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday at 3 p.m. in St. Louis the King Catholic Church with the Rev. Benedetto J. Paris officiating. Spring burial will take place in the Park Cemetery.
Don's grandchildren will act as his pallbearers and honorary pallbearers.
Those wishing to make an expression of sympathy are kindly asked to consider either St. Louis the King Catholic Church, the Salvation Army or First United Methodist Church in Don's memory.
His obituary may also be viewed at canalefuneral.com where relatives and friends may leave a note of remembrance.