Perhaps many years from now, Diana Tillion will be remembered as the Alaska artist who painted landscapes with octopus ink. Or she might be remembered for her historical writing. Many will think of her statuesque home that is the center of Halibut Cove and the place where all important community events take place. I will remember her most as half of a beautiful 58-year love story.
Halibut Cove is one of the planet’s most special places. Across Kachemak Bay from Homer, it’s a fairy tale village of boardwalks, trees, creatures of the sea and art surrounded by mountains, glaciers and ocean. Presiding over this paradise in the most graceful and gracious way was a lady as special as Halibut Cove itself—Diana Tillion. Anyone who knew her was taken by her generous spirit, her friendly and welcoming manner, her love of Alaska, and her unique talent. Perhaps many years from now she will be known as the Alaska artist who painted landscapes with octopus ink which she harvested herself off the Halibut Cove docks. Or she might be remembered for her historical writing. Many will think of her statuesque home that is the center of the village and the place where all important community events take place.
I will remember her most as half of a beautiful 58-year love story. When I spoke to her husband Clem just a week after her passing, I told him that I couldn’t recall her without him, him without her. The exception is rides from the Homer Spit to the Cove with Clem on the Danny J or Stormbird, but Diana was always waiting on the other side. I imagine she greeted thousands and thousands of visitors to the Cove, no small number of them friends and associates of Rasmuson Foundation, for a walk on the boardwalk, a cup of tea at the house, and an inspiring personal tour of her octagon-shaped gallery on the hill.
Her home has always been packed with art, hers and others’, and with warmth and love and visitors.
The connection between the Tillions and the Rasmusons goes back to the early part of the 20th century. Elmer Rasmuson wrote in his book “Banking on Alaska” published in 2000, “”Diana’s father was Hjalmar Rutzebeck. He was a friend of my father and wrote an autobiography. When the Tillions suffered a tragic fire in their home, their top-class library was destroyed. Remembering her father’s book, inscribed to my father, I (Elmer) wrote a similar transfer of ownership and sent it to Diana to start their collection anew.”
Elmer made a loan to a red-headed young Scottish visionary named Clem Tillion to purchase Halibut Cove. The 50th anniversary of the Rasmuson Foundation was appropriately celebrated at Halibut Cove on Clem’s 80th birthday, Diana’s touch evident throughout.
Elmer said in his book, “Diana is certainly acclaimed to be one of the outstanding Alaskan artists of contemporary times…When the bank built its new facility in Homer, we asked Diana to give it a personality by painting an extensive mural. This she did to the delight of both the public and bank officials….One of my treasured personal possessions is a painting which she did after a cruise with us that included a stop in Pelican. The painting is a depiction of Clem and myself on the boardwalk of that picturesque fishing town.”
We have lost a great Alaskan. She passed on her significant talents to pediatrician daughter Martha Cotten, artist/restauranteur daughter Marian Beck, and sons Vincent, a ship pilot, and William, a fishery manager. How fortunate for all of us that she will stay close to us through the beautiful paintings which she left for us to enjoy forever. Her presence will always be felt on walks on the boardwalk of Halibut Cove.
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