Ronald M. Tillier, a retired Ford Motor Co. executive and longtime Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge volunteer, died Sunday.
He was 72.
Mr. Tillier, who enjoyed competitive clay and skeet shooting, was attending a meet Sunday afternoon in Kennedyville on the Eastern Shore when he was stricken.
"He was just preparing to call for targets to be thrown by the trapper when he simply dropped where he was standing," said his wife of 48 years, the former Margaret "Peggy" Clare. "It was probably a massive heart attack or an aneurysm."
Mr. Tillier was transported to Chester River Hospital Center in Chestertown, where he was pronounced dead.
The son of a disabled World War II veteran and a homemaker, Ronald Maurice Tillier was born and raised in West Warwick, R.I., where he graduated in 1957 from John F. Deering High School.
After earning a bachelor's degree in 1961 from the University of Rhode Island, Mr. Tillier served in the Army from 1961 to 1963, where he attained the rank of lieutenant.
He remained an active reservist and was a captain at the time he retired from the service.
Mr. Tillier enrolled at Boston College, where he earned a master's degree in business administration in 1965.
He began his business career in sales with Ford Motor Co. in New York, and later held sales management positions in Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, New Jersey, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
At the time of his retirement in 1996, he was regional sales manager in the company's Pittsburgh regional office.
After retiring from Ford, Mr. Tillier and his wife moved to Woolford in Dorchester County, where he became involved in conservation and museum matters.
In 1996, he began volunteering at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, a Dorchester County sanctuary for migratory birds and home to the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel.
Mr. Tillier was also a volunteer and active member with Friends of Blackwater, serving on its board and as president for six years.
He was credited with having helped turn the organization into "a premier citizen support group," wrote Lisa Mayo, webmaster of Friends of Blackwater, on the group's website.
Mr. Tillier was a reporter and editor for Tidelines, the organization's print newsletter. He was also a supporter of the popular eagle and osprey cams at the refuge and volunteered at its visitors center.
"He was a great ambassador for Blackwater," said Tom Miller, who has worked at the refuge as a ranger for a decade. "When he took over as president, his business background gave him insight in how to do bigger things and get the proper funding. And he knew how to get things done."
Mr. Tillier was able to secure funding for new canoe and kayaking trails, exhibits and hiking trails.
"He saw the big picture and was a very precise person," said Mr. Miller.
"He was very passionate about nature and the refuge. He was also a very positive person and one of the nicest individuals you'd ever meet," Mr. Miller said. "He thoroughly enjoyed talking to people and working the desk at the visitors center. He was very intelligent and articulate."
Larry McGowan is deputy project leader at Blackwater.
"Ron was an exceptional volunteer and part of the refuge family. He had lots of energy and was a doer," said Mr. McGowan.
"He was very personable and always came out to help at special events and was emcee of our Eagle Festival that we hold in March," he said. "He made all the visitors feel welcome because he was very sincere and friendly."
"Ron was my neighbor and best friend," said Tom Hook, who is treasurer of Friends of Blackwater. "He was one of the most honest and principled individuals I've ever met. He believed in what he did and did it well."
Mr. Tillier was named Volunteer of the Year at Blackwater for 1996-1997, and worked closely with U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes' office on wildlife issues.
"He was asked by Rep. Wayne Gilchrest's office to testify before a House subcommittee on conservation," said Mrs. Tillier.
Mr. Tillier was a charter and active member of the South Dorchester Folk Museum in Church Creek, which was founded in 2000 and whose mission is to preserve the history and heritage of the area.
"Ron was almost a professional volunteer," said John S. Neild, former museum president who is now its treasurer. "We record the old-timers, and he was helping convert our interview tapes to a DVD format. He was really interested in that."
Mr. Neild described him as "extremely gentlemanly" and a person "who was always interested in what people had to say when they were talking to him."
"He was always very sensitive to what people needed. He was a very caring and intelligent person," said Mr. Neild.
Mr. Tillier enjoyed boating and was a member and had served as president of the Cambridge Skeet and Gun Club and a member of the National Skeet Shooting Association.
"I spent many days with Ron. He was a wonderful man," said Doug Foxwell, who also was a fellow clay and skeet shooter.
"In his group classification, he'd come in first, second or third. He was good. We used to do 13 or 14 tournaments a year in Pennsylvania and New Jersey," said Mr. Foxwell.
Mr. Tillier was a member of the American Legion and Old Trinity Episcopal Church in Church Creek, where he was a vestryman.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Christ Episcopal Church, 601 Church St., Cambridge.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Tillier is survived by two daughters, Margaret T. "Laura" Bates of Sugar Land, Texas, and Elizabeth T. "Beth" Tierney of Columbus, Ohio; and six granddaughters.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun