Herbert (“Towser”) Carlton Tilton Jr., who lived an all-encompassing Island life that included carpentry, swordfishing, deer hunting, fly tying, and gardening, his body weakened, but his keen mind, spirit, and faith in God intact, died Monday, June 15, 2015, at St. Camillus Nursing Home in Whitinsville with his daughters and dedicated caregivers at his side. He was 83.
Towser, as he was commonly known, was born in Oak Bluffs on November 26, 1931, to Herbert and Rose Tilton. He attended Tisbury School and left his senior year of high school to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War. He was proud of his service, and that of others serving their country.
During Towser’s lifetime, his careers included master contractor/carpenter, property caretaker, and swordfisherman. He was seldom still with his many interests, which included hunting, archery, fly fishing, fly tying, saltwater and freshwater fishing, shell fishing, trapping, bird carving, gardening, and jelly making. He was known for cooking and baking in large quantity to share with friends. Through the years, he always had a faithful pet or two to train and be by his side. His passion for animals led him to become a breeder of foxes, rabbits, and birds. He lived, studied, and worked at his hobbies as though he were participating in an extreme sport.
He was happy reminiscing about growing up on Martha’s Vineyard and sharing Island and family stories. He beamed with pride and joy the night he attended the premiere of the documentary Zeb: A Schooner Life, a movie made about his grandfather. He had interview pieces throughout the movie, and to see it on the Capawock’s big screen added extra grandeur to the experience.
Towser is survived by his sister and brother-in-law Shirley and Don Viera of Fairhaven; daughters Bonnie Tilton Jackson of West Tisbury and April Poisson and her husband Arthur Poisson of Uxbridge; daughter-in-law Lisa Tilton of Edgartown; 11 grandchildren, and one great-grandson. He was predeceased by his brother, Jerome Alton Tilton, and by his only son, Herbert (“Butch”) Carlton Tilton III.
Towser’s request was for his family to quietly return with his ashes to his beloved Island home, the Vineyard. He will be missed for his lifetime of stories, his uncanny ability to recite rhymes, and most of all his gentle wisdom. To honor his memory and passion for teaching others the joy of fishing, donations may be sent to the Rod & Gun Club, Kid’s Trout Derby, P.O. Box 1799, Edgartown, MA 02539.