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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Rev. Russell D. Tillotson

Issue Date: May 13, 2020

Rev. Russell David Tillotson, 93, passed away Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at Lakeview Hospital in Two Harbors, Mn. with his son Matt holding his hand.

Born Nov. 26, 1926 in Syracuse N.Y., to Robert Tillotson and Ruth Tooker Tillotson, he was the fourth of five children. After losing their mother during the Depression, he and his siblings spent six years in the local orphanage and returned home when their father remarried. He graduated from Ebenezer High School in Ebenezer Township, N.Y., Wooster College in Wooster, Oh. and San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, Ca. He studied in the Doctoral program at McKormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Ill. and later attended Clown School with his third wife, Sylvia of which his children were not surprised by.

As a young man, he worked as a machinist, a bus driver and a salesman. He sailed as a "Seagoing Cowboy" on the USS Mexico, a merchant marine vessel out of Baltimore, ferrying horses, mules and cattle to post war Europe. After college, he enlisted in the United States Army and served in Counter Intelligence at the German Czech border.

Ordained by the Presbyterian Church of America, he was called to the Lawrence and Western Congregations in Grant County, Mn., the First Presbyterian Church of Redwing, Mn. and was then called to the Amberg, Athelstane, Crivitz, Pembine and Wausaukee Churches from 1978 until the early 1990's.

Fluent in French, conversational in German and with a reading knowledge of Hebrew, Greek and Latin, he had many corny jokes, bad puns and western history of Louis Lamour. He enjoyed baptisms, weddings and the theology undergirding the cartoons of Charles Schultz (Peanuts) and Walt Kelly (Pogo).

In his 45 year career, he became the go to Officiate for creative or desperate couples of many faiths. He performed weddings on lakeside, riverside and mountain side, in backyards, barnyards, bluff tops and on a pontoon boat.

He married Barbara Brocket in 1954 and for 33 years she leant support and guidance, from college through Europe and Seminary and from Church to Church. They raised eight children, Michael, Katheleen, Russell Jr., Margaret, Andrew, Benjamin, Rebecca and Matthew. Later in life, after his first wife's death, he expanded his family, marrying Rose Johnson and then Sylvia Huning, each of whom pre-deceased him.

A man for all seasons, he said, if you're too busy for people, you're just too busy. He lived this motto to the consternation of his wives, children and anyone waiting in the car, theater, restaurant or Church. He made time for anyone and and gave himself with equal respect, care and compassion to both the mighty and the meek. There is no one who knew him who is not smiling today remembering him. He celebrated life and we celebrate him.

He is survived by seven of his children, Mike (Vivian), Kate (Barry), Russ Jr. (Linda), Molly (Inez), Ben, Becky (Mark) and Matt (Deb); four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; the son and daughter of his lifelong friends, Knox and Carrie Seaton, Nancy Milan and David Seaton. With close relationships with his second and third wives' families, he is also survived by Patti Finney and Barry Johnson, Ellie Lee, Barb Huning, Wendy Magnaghi and eight step-grandchildren from both families and also his loving friend, Carol Loken of Duluth.

The Cremation Society of Minnesota in Duluth is assisting the family with arrangements.


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