Lawrence Paul Tillemans, 93, St. Joseph
August 1, 1926 - December 28, 2019
On December 28, 2019 Lawrence Paul Tillemans passed away, after a very short illness and with his three sons and family members holding his hand and guiding him to meet his beloved wife, Josephine. Only a few days before, he was dressed as Santa Claus and leading Christmas songs.
Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 am on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in St. Joseph, Minnesota. The Reverend Jerome Tupa, OSB will officiate. Burial will be in the parish cemetery following the service.
Visitation will be at the parish center Heritage Hall from 4:00 – 8:00 pm on Monday and at 9:30 am Tuesday prior to the service. Parish prayers will be Monday at 4:00 pm.
Lawrence was born on August 1, 1926 in Minneota, Minnesota, to a Dutch immigrant father, William, and an Irish school teacher mother, Katherine. He had three older brothers, Phil, Francis and Bernard and one older sister, Joan. He developed Tourette syndrome as a young child and was subjected to periods of hardship. Yet he found a way to persevere and eventually his symptoms stopped.
As a young boy, Larry won a contest by being able to name every person in town. He was popular in his class, lettered in basketball and baseball, and wrote a column in the paper called “Tilliegrams.” He followed his three brothers to earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout and he followed them in the art of storytelling and pulling off practical jokes.
During World War Two, Larry was a sergeant in the U.S. 3rd Army in Germany. As a member of the Signal Corp, he worked as a clerk typist at the Nuremberg Trials. He saw survivors of the Holocaust at Dachau, shortly after it was liberated. In the courtroom, he looked into the composed faces of Nazi leaders such as Hermann Goering.
Upon returning home, Larry worked as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman in Minneapolis. He met his wife, Josephine, when he got his appendix out. She was his nurse. He was able to score a job as a feed salesman by impressing a vacuum cleaner prospect with his ability to close a sale. From there on out until the age of sixty, Larry was a salesman for Ralston Purina, eventually covering a five state area.
Larry and Josephine had six children in a variety of small midwestern towns: JoAnne, Dan, Lori, Steve, Tony and Therese. While Larry traveled during the week, when he came home he would often entertain his children and those of the neighbors. The family settled in St. Joseph, MN in 1971 and was active in the St. Joseph Catholic Parish. Their lakeside home at Pleasant Acres was a wonderful gathering place.
Shortly after retiring at sixty, Larry had a spiritual awakening and was inspired to tell the story of what he had witnessed at the Nuremberg trials. He gave over 400 presentations in prisons, schools, community and veteran centers. The Emmy award winning documentary, “The Typist,” was produced by KSMQ and tells the story of Larry’s life and work.
Larry’s children have married and given him fourteen grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. JoAnne has a daughter named Grace. Dan has two children, Tobias and Rebecca, both of whom are married and each of which has two children. Lori has two children, Sean and Matthew. Steve is married to Kathy and has a son named Dylan. Tony is married to Joyce and their children are Michala, Sam, and Madelyn. Michala is married and has a son. Sam is married and has a daughter and two sons. Therese is married to Kent and their children are Nathan, Danae, Colton, Nikita and Tianna. Nathan, Danae and Colton each have spouses.
Larry is survived by all of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his wife Josephine, who passed away in 2010, and by his three brothers and his sister.
Larry inspired his children and grandchildren to set goals and to “think about what you can do to help someone.” He loved a microphone in his hand and to host backyard games. As we remember him hosting “Captain May I” so many times we are left to ask “Captain May I - go forward on my own?” And we can feel him say “Yes, you can.”
Our family would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Staff at Country Manor where our father has lived for the past eight years. You have truly been a blessing for both our father and us.
Memorials are preferred to the Marionnhill Mission Society, PO Box 8, Deerborn, MI 48121 (in recognition of the impact Father Engelmar Unzeitig, Martyr at Dachau Concentration Camp, had on our father) or to the Peace House Community, 1816 Portland Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55404 (founded by our Aunt, Sister Rose Tillemans)