Tillery Day raises money for Relay

Published 9:59 pm Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tillery Day: Vonda Carter, left, the niece of C. Faye Tillery, and Faye’s father, Amos Tillery, hold a photo collage of Tillery at the C. Faye Tillery Day festivities at the East Suffolk Recreation Center. The event was to honor Tillery, who died of cancer at age 37, and to collect donations for Relay for Life.

Editor’s note: This is another in a series of stories leading up to the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life, to be held May 13-14.

C. Faye Tillery was known for caring deeply about the citizens of Suffolk, particularly the seniors and children she saw daily in her job with Suffolk Parks and Recreation.

She died about 12 years ago from cervical cancer at the age of 37. However, her memory lives on in the annual C. Faye Tillery Day held by the recreation department.

Email newsletter signup

On Saturday, a crowd of community members, parks and recreation staff and members of the Tillery family gathered in the gymnasium at the East Suffolk Recreation Center for basketball games and cancer awareness. The Tillery family also took some time out of the day to share memories about a treasured mother, daughter, sister, aunt and cousin.

“My aunt was sort of the link that kept our family together,” said Vonda Carter, Tillery’s niece. “She worked hard to make time for everybody. She always gave more than she had.”

Tillery’s cancer was diagnosed about two to three years before her death, Carter said. It went into remission after a first round of treatment, but “then it pretty much took a turn for the worse,” Carter said.

At Saturday’s event, the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy Helping Hands club was there to hand out information about cancer screenings and resources, as well as about the American Cancer Society’s Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life, scheduled for May 13-14.

“Cervical cancer doesn’t get a lot of attention,” Carter said.

Tillery’s younger son Darius doesn’t remember her very well — he was 5 years old when she died.

“I try, but I really can’t [remember her],” he said. He did say, however, he thanks God for the rest of his family and for Suffolk Parks and Recreation. The department’s director, Lakita Frazier, is “always there for my family,” he said.

Damon Tillery was older, 19, when his mother died.

“She showed me the ins and outs of how to be a kid, then a teenager, then a man,” he said, remembering that she was always fair to all the children in recreation programs, even when he was participating. “I’m not going to show you any different than I show another kid,” he remembered his mom saying.

The entire Tillery family — Faye was the third youngest out of 14 — makes a weekend event out of the annual Tillery Day, traveling from points all up and down the East Coast to attend. Even Faye’s father, who turns 94 this month, was at Saturday’s event.

Irene Jordan, one of Faye’s older sisters who helped raise her, said she was “a very pleasant person.”

“The work that she’s done speaks for her,” said LoVoil Tillery, Faye’s brother.

Donations raised at the C. Faye Tillery Day event benefited the city of Suffolk’s Relay for Life campaign. Fundraising will go on until the Relay. For more information on how to get involved, visit www.suffolkrockinrelay.org.