Lee Tillery

February 3, 1965January 12, 2021

(Rebecca) Lee Tillery, born in Scotland Neck, NC, February 3, 1965, daughter of James and Janice, sister to Catherine and Elizabeth, passed unexpectedly and peacefully at her home on January 12, 2021.

Lee (don’t dare call her Rebecca!) lived a life few of us would know how to live. As she was joining this world, a spinal cord injury left her paralyzed and impaired. Lee was not expected to live beyond the age of 5, but as always she had the last laugh and LIVED to 55!

What Lee would want you to know: After moving to Raleigh, she became a March-of-Dimes poster child; was the first in NC to receive a handicapped license plate, even though she couldn’t drive; became a NCSU fan after a promo with basketball star, David Thompson; attended CP Center/school in Raleigh; taught her niece her ABCs; loved her time as a library volunteer at AB Combs Elementary and working at Easter Seals UCP; enjoyed playing cards, ‘boogying’, dancing (without any rhythm) and simply ‘going’; made sure all knew her sisters were OLDer, but she was not the baby; acknowledged her legs did not work, but her wheels would get her there just the same; endlessly loved her family and friends.

Lee’s lessons of courage and strength: be blind to differences while celebrating being different; express empathy and compassion, not sympathy and pity; sportingly laugh at yourself; offer patience and acceptance; if she can do it, you can too, and life is good. Lee enjoyed being the center of attention, talking to and meeting everyone, toasting with whatever was in her hand and being as independent as possible. She always found a way to talk ‘you’ into anything, taking her along, letting her do this or that with stubbornness and determination. Lee was a beacon of light that remained shining on everyone and in every space she occupied.

Lee’s life would not have been so full had it not been for the countless organizations, doctors, friends and loved ones who supported, lifted and encouraged her along the way. We are especially grateful to her caregivers, who were like her adopted family, LaTonya Chisholm with her son Josh and Mother, Joann; Marie Cessay and her church family at Church of the Holy Cross.

Lee leaves behind her sisters, Catherine Tillery and partner Kathy Elias, and Elizabeth Byrd and partner Art Howard; niece Ashley Brooks and husband Troy Brooks and nephew Matthew Byrd; Jade and Carson Brooks, her great niece and nephew.

She is preceded in death by her parents, James and Janice Tillery. The family will have a private service and looks forward to hosting a ‘Lee-type’ celebration with friends and loved ones when this awful pandemic allows.

In remembrance of Lee, donations can be made to Easter Seals UCP of NC and feel free to raise your drink of choice and send her a toast.


Lee Tillery

have a memory or condolence to add?

Mary Hinnant

January 18, 2021

I am sorry to hear about Lee. She was my friend. Although, I took care of Lee for many years, I became very close to her and her family. I know she loved people and many people surely loved her. She will be missed by all.


Mary Hinnant

Catrrine Ponall

January 17, 2021

Oh, my-this brings back so many memories of my 17 years living a few houses away from the Tillery family. I had moved here from Pennsylvania as a single mom with a 7 year old daughter. The entire family was so welcoming and the sisters babysat for me on a number of occasions . I have to echo all the writings about Lee I've read so far. I never saw her any other way but smiling, gracious, and enthusiastic. Her parents and sisters were incredible. I last saw her at Whole Foods Grocery with Elizabeth. As usual, even though I hadn't seen her in quite a while, she energetically greeted me as she always had. Her mother would never allow the girls to call me by my first name no matter how many times I suggested it- southern manners! "Ms. Ponall" she called out. I realized at that moment that I had never seen her when she did not radiate joyfulness. My admiration for her and the love she showed the world was a thing of beauty.

Elizabeth and Catherine: my sympathies to you- I know her light will continue to shine in all the memories.

Catrrine Ponall


January 17, 2021

We met in the mid 70s. Lee always made me feel better. Thank you Lee for using your journey to make the world better

Brenda Becerra

January 16, 2021

Sorry for your loss.
I knew Lee from Winterpointe.
I did the schedule for workers to care for Lee.

Peggy Robinson

January 16, 2021

I first met Lee through Elizabeth at Pam's Farmhouse.Then her caretaker would bring her and she always had stories to tell me I fell in love with her the first I met her.She was a joy to be around always happy ànd smilingI am truly sorry for the loss of a special angel.

Shannon Strawn Tilley

January 16, 2021

I’m so saddened to hear of Lee’s passing, my thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends. I had the pleasure of assisting Lee quite a few years ago at her home through Easter Seals UCP. We had a lot of fun and laughs back then!

Lucille Mitchell

January 16, 2021

I meet Lee a few years ago through my loving Special Daughter Tee. She would bring you down to SC and you were the sweetest and a burst of sunshine ALWAYS. I have never seen you unhappy or not smiling. You didn't let your limitations stop you from living your best life. I had a ball with you in the mountains. I know you're resting in the arms of God. Josh, Tee and all of the family will miss you but we know that we will see you in a better place, a place that's not made by hands. Rest on Lee🙏🏽💜

Rachel Hill

January 15, 2021

Lee was one of the strongest, most beautiful women I ever met. Her deep faith and love of God and all those she came into contact with was so evident. We will miss her joyful and sweet presence. Our prayers are with her family at this time. We look forward to sharing a celebration in heaven with you Lee!

Anna Lovell

January 15, 2021

The word that continues to show in these beautiful tributes to Lee is light and when I first learned of her passing it's the first word that came to mind. I worked with Lee for many years at ESUCP and her light truly shined so bright everywhere she went. Lee always made sure to speak to everyone she encountered, always asking them how they were doing with a big smile on her face. The world needs more people like Lee who spread sunshine wherever they are! My thoughts are with her lovely family and many friends who are feeling this loss.

Christina Ransom-Kincaid

January 15, 2021

To say I am in disbelief is an understatement. Lee, was such a sweet, loving young lady. From the day I met her she made me feel like she had known me forever. I am going to miss hearing her say “ Hey, CHRISSY”!😢 However, I know she is resting in the arms of Christ Jesus and it comforts me to know, I will see her again. Prayers to her family and T’ know I’m praying for u sis May Gods strength, and peace be your portion...
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.” (2Thessalonians 3:16)