William Murphy Tilton took his last flight into the wild blue yonder June 5, 2019.
Bill was the second son of James Laurie Tilton and Minnie Collins Tilton, born Nov. 11, 1924, in Scranton, S.C. Unlike the stories we heard of walking to school 2 miles, uphill both ways, in a blinding snowstorm with just a cold sweet potato and biscuit for lunch, he started school at age 4 because he had to drive his older brother, Harvey, in a horse and buggy due to Harvey’s physical handicap.
He joined the military in June, 1941 because he “didn’t want to look at the back end of a mule” for the rest of his life. He loved serving in the military and found he had an affinity for aircraft maintenance. During the Army of Occupation in Germany, he met and married fellow soldier Virginia “Toni” Tilton in 1948. She caught his attention at a softball game, where she quickly dispatched an arrogant male soldier.
They were first married by the town Bürgermeister (mayor), then by a base chaplain. Her dress was pale green silk, made from a parachute. Their first tour as a married couple was in Washington, D.C., with a Harley-Davidson and a sidecar as their transportation. When Bill received orders to Cheyenne, WY, and Toni heard on the radio that the coldest spot in the U.S. (that day) was Cheyenne, WY, she told Bill he had better find another mode of travel if he wanted her to go.
While stationed at Warren Air Force Base, the first two of their four children were born, Toni Lynn and Thomas Murphy. They next transferred to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, where youngest son William Tracy was born. Next assignment was Chanute AFB, where their last child, Terri Louise, was born.
Further assignments included Nouasseur AFB in Morocco, North Africa and finally, Hill AFB, Utah, where Bill retired from active duty as a Chief Master Sergeant. Bill and Toni returned to Rantoul to raise their children and contribute to the community. Bill worked at the University of Illinois, for Prudential Insurance and for the Chanute Credit Union before starting in the service of his country a second time. He taught aircraft maintenance to officers for many years before ending his second career as a training evaluator.
Bill and Toni went on many travels after his retirement, crisscrossing the country visiting with their extended military family and friends, until her death in 1990. He hated cold weather and said when he retired he was “Going to tie a snow shovel to the front of his car and start driving south. When he reached a place where some asked, “What is that?” he was going to drive 100 miles further south, and that is where he would retire!
Bill adored children, especially his grandsons, Timothy Murphy Tilton (wife Carrie), Todd Michael Tilton (wife Holly), William Lucas McCall (wife Nola) and Morgan Gray McCall (wife Karson). He was further blessed to know all of his great-grandchildren, Fletcher and Alexandra Tilton of South Lyon, MI and Timmy and Emily Tilton of Naperville, IL.
In 1994 he met Dorothy Pondy. They spent the rest of his life sharing adventures travelling to Australia, Alaska, Europe and the Virgin Islands. For the last five years they resided in a beautiful retirement community in West Columbia, SC. There Dorothy’s son, Kevin, daughter-in-law, Cory, and their children Coryelle and Jack enjoyed dad’s company and assisted with his care. Dorothy’s daughter, Kristin Tidwell (husband Aaron) and granddaughter, Caitlyn, reside in the home Dorothy and Bill built in the mountains of North Carolina. Bill became a much-loved addition to her family and a beloved grandpa to Dorothy’s grandchildren.
As a life-long learner, he instilled that love of learning in his children. He read the Wall Street Journal every day and often emailed articles to family and friends. He had a computer, iPad Pro, smartphone and an Echo Show. While not proficient in the use of electronics, he wanted to try to learn and keep up with the great-grandkids! He was full of witticisms we didn’t always appreciate: “That will feel so good when it stops hurting!” (after stubbing a toe or hitting your head), “Walk, and if you run it will only take you half as long” (when asked for a ride), “I have half a day’s work done!” (responding to complaints of having to rise early) and a favorite, “If you want sympathy you know where to find it…in the dictionary between s**t and syphilis!”.
In addition to his parents, brother and wife, Bill was predeceased by several half-brothers.
Survivors include his children Toni Tilton of Paducah, KY, Tom (Sue) Tilton of Tinley Park, IL, Tracy (Carroll) Tilton of Chillicothe, IL and Terri Fields of Savoy; his grandsons and great-grandchildren and extended family, brothers Jack Coward of Columbia, SC, Mendal Coward of Sumter, SC and sister, Anne Hyman of Darlington, SC.
A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, June 15, 2019, from 5-7 p.m. at the Lake House in Crystal Lake Park. Family and friends are invited to visit with the family and reminisce this amazing man.
Interment will be at a later date at the Ft. Jackson National Cemetery in Columbia, SC.
In honor of his many years of military service, memorials may be made to a veterans group of your choice.