Chicopee City Councilor James Tillotson remembered as a ‘legend’ by colleague, mayor

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CHICOPEE — One of Chicopee’s longest-serving elected leaders has died of cancer.

James K. Tillotson, city councilor for Ward 1, passed away Saturday at the age of 88 at his home, surrounded by family, his obituary states.

Tillotson provided 50 years of public service to the city of Chicopee during his life, which included working as a teacher, hockey coach and time on the School Committee and City Council. He was a veteran who served in the Air National Guard and was sent to Phalsbourg, France, during the Berlin Crisis.

Tillotson did not seek re-election this year because of his two-year battle with cancer.

He is being remembered as a dedicated public servant, a “legend” and “financial watchdog” on the council.

Councilor Robert Zygarowski, a 20-year colleague of Tillotson, recalled his dedication.

“He worked hard in every aspect of what he did,” Zygarowski said. “He helped me a lot as a freshman when I got there 20 years ago. I always cherish that because he lived very close to my parent’s house, so I got to know him.”

Zygarowski says Tillotson will be missed. “I’ll always look at that chair and think of Jimmy,” he said.

Mayor John Vieau said Tillotson was more than a colleague. He said Tillotson represents what Chicopee is all about, referring to his 50 years of service.

“It’s going to be hard to fill his shoes,” he said.

The mayor plans to proclaim Nov. 25, 2023, as James K. Tillotson Memorial Day in the City of Chicopee.

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