Man with over 100 grandchildren turns 108 on the 4th of July

The City of Rockford, Illinois, proclaims July Fourth "Izer Tilson Day."
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 4:06 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR/Gray News) - An Illinois man with over 100 grandchildren is celebrating a huge milestone in his life.

At 108 years old, Izer Tilson describes his life like a story book. He raised 15 children who went on to give him more than 100 grandkids that he has had the privilege to watch grow up over the years.

“I’m just happy to be 108. Nine girls and six boys, not bad,” Tilson said.

Tilson told WIFR that he wants to “live until 128.”

Tilson gave a nod to God, saying in addition to his health, the Bible is the reason for reaching that incredible milestone. He said he feels as strong as he did in the peak of his youth in his 20s.

The milestone is so incredible that the City of Rockford wished Tilson a happy birthday by naming July 4 “Izer Tilson Day.”

Leaders say Tilson was born in Forest City, Arkansas, and worked as a farmer, a handyman and a businessman. He was also nicknamed “Rag Man” because of his fascination with colorful rags.

His daughter Gerline Tilson-Norris, who is one-half of his only set of twins, said her father’s greatest blessings are his faith, family and friends.

“No sugar, no diabetes. I think we should have the scientists, medical scientists out here at least doing some study ... this is rare,” Tilson-Norris said. “To see someone, not suffering or in a whole lot of pain or anything, just take it as it comes.”

Tilson’s wife died in 2000 because of heart failure. She was in her 80s at the time of her death. Family members described her as a church volunteer and a missionary with strong patience and a caring heart. Staying home to raise her children, she made sure they were loved no matter what.

Tilson recalls them being high school sweethearts, and said she was a “careful, happy wife.”

Tilson-Norris says that her father chooses to live at home for his “final lap” surrounded by family and friends. He said he always wants to be in the presence of his stuffed animals and WWE tapes that are played on repeat.

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