George Tillema, The Book Peddler, December 18, 1936 - December 4, 2021
George passed away on Saturday, December 4th with his spouse of 58 years, Janice (Oaks) Tillema, by his side. George was born to Mary Alice Ross Tillema and Jesse Tillema in Rapid City, South Dakota on December 18, 1936. He was the eldest of 5 children.
George graduated from Juneau High School in 1955 as Salutatorian and President of his class with a Davies scholarship to the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He attended the UW - Madison briefly before joining the Air Force. He served in the Air Force for 4 years in Japan, California, and Texas as a Psych Ward Specialist. George was proud to say he climbed Mt. Fuji during his time in Japan.
George returned to Madison after his service, where he met and married the love of his life, Janice Oaks. He continued his education and received his Bachelor's degree in History at UW - Platteville, and eventually obtained a Master’s Degree in Geography at Michigan State University.
George worked at Edward W. Sparrow Hospital in Michigan as a Hemodialysis technician, where he authored a position paper for the technicians requesting more equitable compensation. George and Janice moved back to Wisconsin in 1977 to be closer to family, settling in Eau Claire because it was a family-friendly city. There he worked as a Cartographer for the State of Wisconsin. Not wanting to move when that job was transferred to Madison, he instead sold some of his books. Since his book sales were so well received, he opened The Book Peddler on Water Street in 1978.
Over the next 24 years, The Book Peddler moved three times. From Water Street, to a storefront behind Fleet Feet, and finally moving to Graham Avenue, where he occupied a large space vacated by a department store.
His greatest joy was to talk to other book dealers, book lovers, and music lovers. He enjoyed going to the UW - Eau Claire where he studied languages; George could usually be found in the Davies Center on campus studying a variety of foreign languages by carefully translating books and newspapers to English. He also enjoyed bicycling, and was often seen with pipe in mouth riding on the various trails around town.
He closed the store on Graham Avenue in 2002, but continued to sell books online until 2019, when he retired due to health reasons. Thank you to all of the people who took such good care of George over the years; Dr. S. Obaid, Dr. Peller, and Dr. Potter.
George was preceded in death by his brother Ross Tillema, his sister Thirza Kuhlman and her husband Roy, and his parents Mary Alice and Jesse Tillema. He is survived by his wife Janice; children Lisa Tillema-Cuff (John), Glenn Tillema (Chris), and Scott Tillema (Elizabeth Byrnes); and grandchildren Quill, Maxwell, Jessica, Danielle, Calvin, and Reese.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, January 9, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. at Hulke Family Funeral Home, 3209 Rudolph Rd., Eau Claire, Wisconsin 54701. A visitation will be held on Sunday, at the funeral home from 2:00 p.m. until the time of service. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Upper Wisconsin Children's Dyslexia Center. This charity is led by the Freemasons of which George was a local lodge member. George’s ashes will be interred at the Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery near Spooner, Wisconsin.
Friends and family may offer condolences online at www.hulkefamilyfh.com.
Hulke Family Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 3209 Rudolph Road, Eau Claire, Wisconsin 54701 is assisting the family with the arrangements.
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