Bryson "Hugh" Tilson

Bryson “Hugh” Tilson, of Boone, N.C., passed away the morning of June 21, 2019, at the age of 89 after suffering a stroke.

Hugh’s family and community will remember him for his ability to connect to people, and his positive outlook, humor and playful spirit. He was forever curious about the people and events surrounding him. His caring nature, analytical mind and creative spirit readied him to solve problems and help others.

With his wife, Sue, he helped to organize the Watauga Unit of the American Cancer Society in 1980. He and Sue remained active leaders and volunteers. This year, Hugh and Sue were honored at the American Cancer Society’s 25th Anniversary Survivor Dinner.

In his mid-30s, Hugh surprised friends and family by taking his young family to Kabul, Afghanistan, to work and travel. The opportunity to help the people of a Third World nation was his proudest professional achievement. Hugh’s sons will forever remember the experience as one of their fathers lasting gifts to them.

His respect and concern for others remained through his final days as he conveyed a positive spirit, expressed appreciation to his medical team and caregivers, worried his illness was an inconvenience to others, and conveyed his concern for the well-being of those around him.

After graduating NC State University with a B.S. in Vocational Agricultural Education and Minor in Agricultural Engineering, Hugh worked as a vocational agriculture teacher. He later joined Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation, advancing to Director of Public Relations. In the mid-60s, he accepted a three-year assignment with Columbia University under a contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he served as an educational advisor. Upon returning to the United States, Hugh joined Caldwell Community College in Lenoir where he directed health manpower education. He later moved to Boone to launch a commercial and residential maintenance business followed later by a maintenance position with Tar Heel Capital of Boone. He retired in 1995 and continued to reside in Boone.

Hugh is survived by his wife of 40 years, Suzanne (Sue) Tilson; brother, Leonard Tilson of Winston-Salem; three sons and their spouses, Joe Tilson (Diane) of Boone, Larry Tilson (Joe) of Blowing Rock and Palm Beach FL, and Jeff Tilson (Lisa) of Saint Augustine FL; Sues four children and their spouses, Michael Blackburn (Caroline) of Banner Elk, Cindy Gore (Bill) of Butler TN, David Blackburn of Austin TX, and Rebecca Lapping (Steve) of Pinehurst; ten grandchildren and their spouses, Adam Tilson (Sarah), Ramsey Wilde (Brian), Haley Tilson, Sam Blackburn, Isaac Blackburn (Suzanne), Jennifer Brown (Johnny), Bert Gore (Heather), Kevin Lapping (Holli), Jeffrey Lapping, and Bryce Lapping; and eight great-grandchildren, Silas, Finley and Hollyn Wilde, Elliott Blackburn, Mack and Mason Brown, Braden Gore, and Piper Jo Lapping.

A memorial service will be at 12 p.m., on Monday, July 1, 2019, at Grace Lutheran Church at 115 East King Street, Boone. Visitation and a reception will follow the service at the church.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to The Troutman Foundation at Grace Lutheran Church and the Watauga Chapter of the American Cancer Society.

Online condolences may be shared with the Tilson family at

Austin & Barnes Funeral Home & Crematory is serving the Tilson family.

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