Passion and dedication as an athlete, teacher, coach, and community leader characterized G.W.’s 92 years. He was a farm boy born to sharecropper parents on April 7, 1920, near Weston. His passion for education was evident early as he graduated from high school three times — 10th grade from Alla (near Celina), 11th grade from Alla, and finally, 12th grade from Celina. G.W. was named best high school basketball player in Collin County in 1937 and was a leader on the baseball team that won the county championship.
G.W. attended North Texas State Teacher’s College (now University of North Texas) on an athletic scholarship, later joined the college math team, and received a B.S. degree in math and P.E. in 1941. He married Helen Huffman of Electra that summer, and they spent 67 years fully dedicated to each other and their family until her death in 2008.
Tillerson’s first teaching job was as high school principal, coach, and math teacher in Prosper. He spent two years in Salem,Texas, as head football and basketball coach followed by two years as high school principal and coach in Iowa Park, Texas. Wherever he went, he taught math and encouraged his students to teach others. G.W. then served 17 months in the United States Army; while in training at Camp Wolters, he won the camp heavyweight boxing championship and played on the camp baseball team.
In Sterling City his five-year span as high school principal, coach, and teacher was highlighted by six-man football teams that won three district championships and two bi-district crowns. His Eagles also bagged two district basketball championships. He was a pioneer in working to set up the Six-Man Football Coaches Association in 1948. He continued his athletic participation in West Texas as he competed on independent basketball teams in area championships and state title tourneys as well as pitching for numerous men’s softball teams.
In 1951, G.W. moved to Christoval as superintendent of schools. He tirelessly worked to improve the facilities as, during his first year, the school district erected a gymnasium, new classrooms, and remodeled the entire existing building. That year, he coached his basketball team in city league competition in nearby San Angelo to prepare them for having their own facilities for high school competition. He coached a superb football team to a district, bi-district, and regional championship; this team was led by Jack Pardee who later became one of Bear Bryant’s Junction Boys, a collegiate All-American, All-Pro linebacker, and coach of numerous college and professional football teams including the Chicago Bears and Houston Oilers. G.W. completed his M.S. degree in school administration at North Texas State, farmed each summer with his dad, continued his softball exploits, and taught math and U.S. government.
The Tillersons next move was in 1957 to Celeste where G.W. was superintendent for the next 24 years. Farming and cattle-raising occupied many of his after-school hours. He never wanted to leave small schools because he knew that superintendents of larger schools did not have the time to dedicate to directly impact the lives of young people through teaching and coaching. His boys and girls basketball teams achieved numerous district titles and went deep into regional play; in fact, in 1964, he led his boys basketball team to the Texas State Tournament, the only time in Celeste High School history that a boys team has made it to state. His tennis teams were even more successful as they compiled a record that may never be broken. He had either a singles player or doubles team qualify for the state championship tournament for 22 straight years with numerous championship winners. After 40 years of teaching and coaching, G.W. retired in 1981; he was extremely proud of the legacy of helping produce numerous teachers (at least 12 in math alone) and teacher-coaches (more than a dozen tennis coaches).
After retirement, G.W. and Helen moved to Celina and built their dream home on the “Lazy T,” a farm he bought years earlier from his grandparents. They dedicated themselves to being active in their church and community. He farmed and raised Black Angus cattle and they opened their home for frequent reunions and celebrations. Leadership roles in the Retired Teachers Association, Collin County Committee on Aging, and Celina Booster Club Fun Days kept them busy. They supported local athletes every chance they got. At Bethel Baptist Church, G.W. continued his 40-plus-year commitment to leading men’s Bible studies and singing in the church choir. In 1988, he was inducted into the Texas Tennis Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He served a short time as interim superintendent of the Celina Independent School District and then was elected to serve for 12 years on the district’s Board of Trustees. G.W. was named “Citizen of the Year” by the Greater Celina Chamber of Commerce in 1995.
As he joined Helen at Heaven’s gates on the morning of March 29, 2013, G.W. left behind two sons and their families, Charles and wife Nancy of Irving and Joe and wife Ruth of Albuquerque, N.M., and grandsons Jeff Tillerson (wife Leslie, daughter Bailey) of Irving, Jim Tillerson of Albuquerque, and Jay Tillerson (wife Anne, children Ashley and Blake) of North Richland Hills.
A granddaughter, Elizabeth, preceded him in death.
Funeral services will be at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Bethel Baptist Church near Celina. Interment will follow at Cottage Hill Cemetery.
Family visitation will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Bethel Baptist Church, prior to the funeral service.
Turrentine-Jackson-Morrow Funeral Home of Frisco is in charge of arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Celeste Athletic Booster Club, c/o First Bank of Celeste, P.O. Box 7, Celeste, Texas 75423 or Bethel Baptist Church, 8382 County Road 128, Celina, TX 75009.
Online condolences may be made at www.tjmfuneral.com and www.heraldbanner.com.