John E. “Jack” Tillman, a model shipbuilder who despite a debilitating disease became known as a master craftsman with a meticulous eye for detail, died Saturday of congestive heart failure in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio. He was 69.
A graduate of Central Catholic High School, Mr. Tillman became a draftsman at the former Unicast Corp. complex on Broadway, a plant in which his father, Lambert Tillman, and uncles were major shareholders.
Mr. Tillman left Unicast in the mid-1960s after the merger of the firm with Midland-Ross Corp.
After that he owned three Cut and Curl Beauty Salons, two in Toledo and one in Maumee, a business he oversaw for about 10 years until his bone tuberculosis returned.
The disease, diagnosed when he was an infant, left him partially paralyzed in 1978.
In the years that followed he devoted his time to learning and perfecting his model shipbuilding talents, specializing in making historic English vessels.
His models were built as close to the original as possible, complete with double hulls like real ships and hundreds of tiny copper plates, Elliott Sluhan said. He bought one of his models as a gift for his father that is still displayed at the offices of Master Chemical Co. in Perrysburg.
“He was really a very fine craftsman - a man of great strength and great capacity,” Mr. Sluhan said. “He did museum-quality ships at all times.”
Another of his ships was once displayed at the Real Seafood Co. restaurant in the former Portside Festival Marketplace.
Bridget Sue Tillman, his wife, said her husband began his first efforts at model making while bedridden in a hospital while being treated for his disease.
He once made three models of the same ship - the HMS Victory - because he had three different opinions as to what the original color scheme was, and once tore off the stern on one and rebuilt it to conform with recently discovered information.
All movable parts on the original ship moved on his creations.
“He did extensive research through library books, so he knew what he was doing,” Mrs. Tillman said.
“What made him so remarkable was after all the adverse things, the surgeries and so forth, he just kept bouncing back,” she said.
The couple were married in 1963 and recently celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary.
Mr. Tillman was a member of St. Jude Council, Knights of Columbus.
Surviving are his wife, Bridget Sue, daughter, Gretchen Throne, and a granddaughter.
Services will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow in St. Patrick of Heatherdowns Church. The body will be in the Ansberg-West Funeral Home after 3 p.m. today.
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