Richard Samuel Tilleman


April 3, 2024

Richard Samuel Tilleman age 84, passed away March 25, 2024, at home with his wife Vernelia by his side. He was born November 15, 1939, at midwife Gertie Closner's home, the fourth of seven sons, to Charles and Beulah (Willman) Tilleman. His mother had all 7 boys there. Richard graduated from Chinook High School in 1957.

In 1957, he also joined the Chinook Unit of the National Guard and trained for 6 months at both Fort Ord, California and Fort Knox, Kentucky. After completing training, he returned home to the farm for a couple of years, then went to work for the grain elevator and also at a car parts store in Havre, Montana. He married his high school sweetheart, Vernelia Shankle, on April 23, 1960 and settled in Havre. He attended 3 quarters of college then ran out of money or was having a baby.

Richard and Vernelia moved back to the farm in 1962 and he worked for his dad. In 1964, he and his father bought 1,360 acres of the Miller Rankin land for $40,800.00. They also broke up 250 acres of dryland grass to raise grain and erected some fences to control grazing. In 1966, Richard took over the operation and assumed the debt on the 1,360 acres and had 80 cows in the grazing association. In 1967, he broke up another 250 acres of dryland grass in order to raise grain.

In 1974 Richard and Vernelia, along with the help of three of his brothers, began the daunting task of designing and building a new home and shop for their family, which now included son Gregory Fritz and daughter Candice Vernelia. In 1976, he bought 88 cows from a neighbor and rented the pasture. He also rented another neighbor's 250-acre farm and purchased his machinery. 1978 brought the purchase of another 60 cows from the neighbor whose land he was farming and renting the pasture from. In 1979 he bought 94 cow unit rights for $94,000.00 that lay next to his land in the grazing association and gave up the lease on the 88 cows. In 1980, he gave up the lease on the farmland and 60 cows because the amount of the lease had grown too large.

He was a member of the Jaycee's and the 4-H. As a 4-H leader in the Snake Butte 4-H club, they made road maps on plywood for the community south of Chinook. He was 4-H council president from 1982-1984. He also took autobody cabin fever classes for years.

Richard was preceded in death by his parents, Charlie and Beulah Tilleman, brothers Charles Gustavus Tilleman and wife Maryann, Franklin John Tilleman, Robert Garland Tilleman and wife Marylou, Dwight Thomas Tilleman, and infant son John Joseph Tilleman and son Richard Charles Tilleman.

He is survived by his wife, Vernelia; his children and their families, Greg and (Donna) Tilleman of Havre, Montana, Candy Tilleman of Laurel, Montana, brothers Douglas James (Martha) Tilleman of Missoula, Montana, John Dwain (Betty) Tilleman of Chinook, Montana, and many special nieces and nephews from near and far.

A service of remembrance will be held at Saint Gabriel Catholic Church, in Chinook, at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday April 6, 2024. A graveside service will follow at Kuper Memorial Cemetery. Reception to follow graveside service at the commercial building at the Blaine County Fair Grounds.

The family suggests memorials to the Chinook Senior Center, Shriners Hospital, or to the memorial of the donor's choice.


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