Born: April 27, 1934 - Deceased: April 29, 2023
On the afternoon of April 29, 2023, Henry Joseph “Joe” Tilk of Belleville, Illinois passed away peacefully at the of age of 89.
Joe was born in Fredericktown, Missouri in 1934 to Henry and Audrey (Dollinger) Tilk, the first of four children. The family moved to East St. Louis, Illinois, where Joe attended St. Patrick grade school and Central Catholic High School. Joe was a champion boxer for Central Catholic before graduating in 1952.
He joined the US Army and served his country as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne and 187th Airborne for two years in Asia at the tail end of the Korean conflict. He was extremely proud of his service as a Rakkasan. In spring 1954, he was one of thousands of US paratroopers sequestered on aircraft on a tarmac in Japan for several days waiting to be dropped into Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam, a plan fortunately that was never implemented. He was honorably discharged and returned to East St. Louis, where he took a job at Anheuser Busch in St. Louis, where he would work as a Lab Technician in the Tower Lab for the next 35 years at the company he loved.
He married Judith Brokaw in 1959 and the couple had four children, Rebecca, Monica, Gerald, and Jennifer, settling in Belleville. To support the growing family he took on a second job with Costello Ushering Service, eventually assuming a position as senior manager overseeing personnel at Fairmount Park Race Track. His first marriage ended in divorce at two decades. Joe later remarried to Phyllis Swan, a union that produced Virginia and Joseph Jr. Later in life Joe was highly active in the community, at VFW Post 8677 and Elks Lodge 664 in Fairview Heights, and he was particularly active at the Knights of Columbus Council 592, where he served as the Grand Knight from 1998-2000, and 4th Degree member of Council 208 in East St. Louis.
Joe was well traveled, recalling fondly his time in Asia, and he visited all corners of the US and took several trips to Europe. Joe had an easy and warm personality and was loved deeply by his family and friends. He maintained a wide circle of friends throughout his life, kept contact with friends going back to childhood, and easily made new close friends very late in life. He deeply loved his six children and 12 grandchildren, doting on them and proudly boasting to everyone their latest achievements. He was a proud father and grandfather, brother, and uncle to a much larger family, all of whom he dearly loved.
Joe is preceded in death by his:
- Parents, Henry and Audrey Tilk
- Brother, Richard Tilk
- Sister, Donna (Tilk) Kelly
- Wife, Judith Tilk
- Wife, Phyllis Tilk
- Granddaughter, Adrienne Zaiter
Joe is survived by his:
- Rebecca (Roger) Morrison
- Monica (Peter) Del Giudice
- Jennifer (Gil) Truesdale
- Ginny (Todd) Banta
- Gerald (Inga) Tilk
- Joseph Tilk
- Sister, Susie Mueller
Memorials: Memorials may be made to the Wounded Warriors. Donate Here
A Memorial Gathering will be held at 4:00 – 8:00 pm, Tuesday, May 30th, 2023 with a Celebration of Life, Honoring Joe’s life at 7:00 pm at the Knights of Columbus, 5420 Old Collinsville Road, Fairview Heights, IL 62208.
A private burial will be held at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, in St. Louis, MO.