Thomas Hillis Obituary (1940 – 2022) – Hilton Head Island, SC

Thomas “Tom” Hillis
December 16, 1940 – January 7, 2022
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina – Tom Hillis, 81, died at Hilton Head Regional Hospital, Jan. 7, 2022, of a heart attack suffered the day before. Tom was born in Savannah, Georgia to Vivian and Thomas Hillis, Sr. As a child, he hunted and fished with his father and played baseball. He was brilliant and skipped two grades in school. After graduating from high school, he used his talents as a pianist to join a Savanna-based band, the Five Sparks. They played local venues, made a few recordings, and eventually toured with Jerry Lee Lewis as their opening band. After a few years on the road, Tom decided to take his education seriously and attended Armstrong State Junior College and Georgia Southern, where he earned a degree in accounting. He was also a member of the Georgia National Guard.
After passing his CPA exam, Tom was recruited by the Charlotte, NC office of Arthur Andersen & Company. One of their clients was the developing Sea Pines Company in Hilton Head Island, SC. During the 1960s, Tom traveled the back roads several times a year to do the Sea Pines audit. Meanwhile, back in Charlotte, Tom and Judy dated for several years, then married on June 20, 1970. Just two weeks later, Tom was offered a job in Hilton Head with Graves Construction Co. .which he accepted and they immediately moved to the island. . These were wonderful years in the initial development of the island. Hilton Head was small enough that everyone knew each other, and most young couples were involved in home building and related industries or real estate. Many lived with their children in North Forest Beach and there were regular dances and parties. John and Frances Tilton’s home on Dove Street was a popular gathering place and friends were surprised when the normally soft-spoken and reserved Tom burst into an exuberant version of Jerry Lee’s Great Balls of Fire Lewis on the Tilton. right.
Hilton Head was a wonderful place for him to enjoy his lifelong love of fishing. One year he won the prize for the largest flounder caught in Beaufort County. Tom, Judy and their daughter Roseann also lived at Port Royal Plantation for 15 years. Later, Tom and Judy moved to Mariner’s Cove Club on the Intercoastal Waterway where Tom could enjoy his boat, sunsets and shorebirds, and even fish in the backyard. The family enjoyed the delicious fried fish dinners he prepared from his catch.
During his working years, Tom worked with Robert Graves, John Tilton Construction Company and Bill Jones Realty as Chief Financial Officer. He also had his own private CPA practice for many years. Tom went into semi-retirement 15 years ago, but continued to do part-time accounting work for Robert Graves and his son, Ling Graves.
For the past few years, Tom had been in declining health, but he was still an avid Georgia Bulldogs fan. He followed the news of the team and individual players daily. He was looking forward to the SEC Championship Game and missed it by just a few days.
Tom was somewhat reserved, except when he was playing. He was intelligent, loyal, steadfast and responsible. He will be missed by Judy, his beloved wife of 51 years, and her daughter Roseann Connolly, husband Steve and granddaughter, Lottie, all of Nashville. Also, his brother-in-law Bob Morrison and his wife Nancy of Tampa. He is also survived by a niece Angie and nephews Ronnie and Craig of Georgia. He was predeceased by his parents, Thomas and Vivian, his brother Ronald and his stepson Kenneth.
Tom’s cremated remains will be interred in the columbarium of the First Presbyterian Church, Hilton Head Island, of which he was a member. In consideration of Covid, services will be private. Island Funeral Home helps with arrangements.

Published by The Island Packet on January 14, 2022.


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