Sen. Clem Tillion, who was one of the oldest former legislators in Alaska, has died. He was a long-time commercial fisherman, a nine-term Alaska state legislator, serving in both the House and the Senate, and he served as Senate president.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1925, he was a resident of Halibut Cove near Homer, he served on state boards, commissions, including as chair of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. He was 33rd degree Scottish Rite Mason, the highest rank.
As a legislator, he was considered one of the founders of the Alaska Permanent Fund; in recent years he was a founder and board member of the Permanent Fund Defenders group, a group of people trying to restore the statutory formula for the Permanent Fund dividend.
His wife, Diana Rutzebeck Tillion, an artist who used octopus ink in her paintings, died of cancer at the couple’s home in Halibut Cove in 2010.
Tillion served in the U.S. Navy from 1940 to 1945 before coming to Alaska. He got into fishing by working as a deckhand.
He helped shape the borough boundaries for the entire state. He specifically shaped the Kenai Peninsula Borough to include the Cook Inlet oil finds, and he carved in Halibut Cove to be part of the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
In later years he ran a commercial boat shuttling people from Halibut Cove to the Homer Spit. He was 96 when he died, but as late as last year he was still running the boat. He also was a lobbyist during his 90s for fishing interests in the Aleutian Chain.
Tillion was a colorful character who was not shy to share his opinions on politics. Anyone in politics in Alaska, from a city council person to a governor, would gladly take his call and consider it an honor and privilege to listen to Tillion. In May, he penned a letter to the Alaska Legislature about the Permanent Fund and his position on the dividend: