Clem Tillion was in Juneau during the legislative session in 2016, where he shared his opinion on the future of the permanent fund during a meeting with the governor and discussed fishing issues in his role as a lobbyist for the Aleut Corporation. He was 90 years old at the time and had been a force in shaping state policy for more than five decades. “I’ve never been silent in my life—this is my land. How my children live depends on the decisions I make here,” he told the Anchorage Daily News in 2016. Tillion died in October 2021 at his home in Halibut Cove. He was 96.
After a childhood in Long Island, New York, Tillion served in the South Pacific as a Navy Seabee during WWII. He arrived in Alaska in 1947 and eventually settled on Ismailof Island outside of Homer, where he helped the small community of Halibut Cove to grow. Tillion became a fisherman and went on to serve in the Alaska House and Senate for nearly 20 years. He was a staunch advocate for sustainable fisheries, saying, “the fish always come first,” and was an instrumental supporter of establishing the Alaska Permanent Fund. “We saw the permanent fund, when we did it, as a way of converting a nonrenewable resource into a renewable resource,” Tillion said when profiled as part of the Magnetic North documentary series.
Tillion was also a devout family man. He was married to artist Diana Tillion for nearly 60 years, and together they raised four children.