Nathaniel Rufus Tilley, Jr., affectionately known as “Tilley” and “Nate” to friends and family, was the third of five children born to Rufus Nathaniel Tilley, Sr. and Eloise Thornton Tilley on July 10, 1941 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He was raised in Camden, New Jersey. Nate was baptized at Nazarene Baptist Church, where he would later sing in the youth choir and serve on the usher board. The church was where his love for gospel music, and music in general, began.
Nate’s favorite pastime was music—especially playing piano. He was self-taught, and played by ear. Nate was educated in the Camden School System, and while still in high school, he would play piano for local singing groups in the community. He gained enough of a reputation in Camden that he would even play for groups throughout South Jersey that competed with his high school friend Leon Huff, who would go on to be a part of the world-famous songwriting duo Gamble & Huff.
Nate remained in Camden after graduating from high school Nate pursued career opportunity at Pratt and Whitney in New Haven, Connecticut. He returned to Camden, New Jersey and worked at Campbell’s Soup. He was married in 1962 to Orissa Thomas Tilley and from that union came two daughters, Valene Medina and Natalie Odette Tilley.
Some time later, Nate’s business-minded brother Calvin, who had built a good reputation at shoe retailer Thom McAn’s corporate office, brought him to Washington, DC and taught him the sales business. It wasn’t long before Nate worked his way up to Shoe Store Manager. He found that he loved sales. Soon after he developed a solid base in salesmanship at Thom McAn’s, his brother introduced him to another business that would eventually become Nate’s real passion—automotive sales. He worked tirelessly for years at several dealerships in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and received many awards and plaques for his outstanding salesmanship until he retired in 2005.
It was around the time that Nate first got into sales that he met his future wife and love of his life, Della, in Washington, DC. Since 1978, they were inseparable and enjoyed many years of happy times together. They were married in Las Vegas in 2004. They loved to travel, especially weekend trips to his home in Jersey and to Atlantic City. Nate loved family gatherings, and he and Della hosted many cookouts and Super Bowl parties at their home. Nate was an avid sports fan, especially basketball and football. Nate loved life, fun, and lots of laughter. He loved his family, and he loved his wife. Their favorite song was “Forever Mine” by the O’Jays.
Sadly, during his retirement, Nate battled several health issues and his activities were somewhat curtailed in his later years. Nathaniel was preceded in death by his mother Eloise Tilley, father Rufus Tilley, brothers Lamont Tilley, Harvey “Sonny” Tilley, sister Mary Tilley Smith, daughter Valene Medina Tilley and nephew Lamonte “Monte Monte” Tilley
The memory of Nathaniel R. Tilley Jr. will be cherished by his loving wife, Della Tilley, daughter Natalie Tukpah (Isaac), grandchildren Ivah and Nailah Tukpah, brother Calvin Tilley, special nephew Harvey “Tony” Tilley (Kimberly) and a host of other loving cousins, nieces and nephews, in-laws and friends.