Marine veteran George Tillet is a martial arts instructor, a member of his local cemetery’s board, and quick with a joke.
“I’m getting old and slow so the only thing I do fast is fall down,” the 77-year-old told WREX.
Tillet is also a strong supporter of his local community, always willing to lend a hand where possible. When a drunk driver knocked over part of the wall around the Harlem Cemetery, Tillet was one of the first to take initiative. He purchased the bricks to repair the wall with his own money.
“I’m just hoping to repay my debt and everybody will be happy,” Tillet said.
The veteran’s spirit and encouragement has inspired many in their Rockford, Ill., community. Former martial arts student Ronnie Edgecomb told WREX that his life was headed in the wrong direction before Tillet helped him channel his energy into something more positive.
“My life turned around completely. I have self-discipline, self-respect for others respect for him, respect for my parents and teachers. It kept me out of so much trouble,” Edgecomb said.
Edgecomb is also helloing Tillet repair the cemetery wall.
“There’s veterans in here. There’s military of all branches. There’s elderly there’s young. He’s here to put it back to the way it was before the drunk driver went through it,” Edgecomb said. “I’m doing it for him and he’s doing it for the community. If he needs help how can I not help?”
For Tillet, acts of service are just part of being a good neighbor.
“It makes you feel like you belong. A sense of accomplishment, pride,” he said. “I didn’t really need anybody to come out and recognize me and thank me. I just wanted to do it.”
Tillet’s story was featured in WREX’s “Inspiring 815” section, which highlights citizens who have made a difference in the community and leave a positive impact in the lives of others.
Learn more in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.