James Everett Tilley Junior has left this world to fly with the angels and swim with the mermaids. He was born in Heidelberg, Germany to Margaret and James Everett Tilley Senior. They moved to Bullhead City, Arizona, where he spent his childhood and teenage years. He was forever with his childhood friends Mark and brother Joshua Hull, who now lives in Mississippi. They created a lifetime of memories and James spent many a night outside on his phone reminiscing and carrying on ‘til wee hours as if they were right beside each other. James longed for the day his brother would come to Humboldt. James moved to Humboldt in 1994 to be closer to his mom, Mickey, and this is where he met his true love and later wife Tina Norton. It was love at first sight and they had three handsome boys, Seth Everett Norton, Evan James Tilley and Shane Joshua Tilley.

James loved the ocean and was a self-taught artist with many unique gifts. His dad gave him a camera and James had an instant talent for photography. He captured the Hale-Bopp comet — though it was never published it soared above many others that were. Next, he started building waterfalls out of anything he could find. He created beautiful works of art with whatever he found laying around. Instead of taking it to the dump he recycled it as the foundations to his beautiful waterfalls. Every piece he ever used he collected by hand. Day after day he would walk the beach and river in search of perfect pieces he would later use for his creations. I was always amazed when I saw a new enormous piece in the yard. His strength and determination was an inspiration. Just watching him get a piece of driftwood off the beach and get it home was an amazing accomplishment in itself. His creativity, ingenuity and the ability to engineer was unparalleled. No matter what, he wouldn’t give up or quit. Sometimes it would take days to finish and he had the strength of four men.

He started carving five years ago. His first creation was a beautiful mermaid, which was the first of many. James’s biggest and last creation was a horse he made out of pieces of driftwood for the Moose Lodge float in the Pony Express Day Parade. That was his proudest creation! James strived in everything he did and his talent was a gift from above. He loved and cherished his family and was so proud to be daddy to his three boys. His favorite role was being grandpa to Abel James Tilley, who lovingly referred to him as “Pop Up.” He was a member of the Moose Lodge and loved playing pool and singing karaoke at his local bars. He was truly an amazing unique soul who connected with many people on so many different levels and touched the lives of many. If you were lucky enough to come in to contact with him you would walk away with a little bit of his magic.

James was a true outlaw and lived every day like it was his last. Words cannot describe how special he is and how much he’ll be missed by all. Nobody will ever fill those big shoes.

He was preceded in death by his mother, Mickey, and sister, Tavia. He is survived by his father, James Everett Tilley Senior; his wife, Tina; her mother, Diane; Tina’s stepmom, Marcia; his sons Seth, Evan and Shane; his sisters Cathy, Brenda and Marianne; his brother Josh Kid and Glenn; his grandson, Abel; nieces Krisany, Chrissy, Brina, Lily and Sierra; and his nephews Micheal, Mason, Jace and Nathan. He held a special place in his heart for his mentor Warner as well as Bill Quinn. Also for Shirley Wells, who he was forever grateful for.

A celebration of his life will be on June 26, 1 p.m. at the Moose Lodge in McKinleyville. It will be a potluck, and everyone is welcome! James would joke to me that no one would come to his memorial — join me to prove him wrong. Funeral services will be handled by Humboldt Crematorium. We love and miss you, James!


The obituary above was submitted by James Tilley’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here. Email news@lostcoastoutpost.com.