“And I love you all.” That is how Rachel Judith Emily “Tillie” Olson Tuschhoff left each and every FCWCC meeting that she attended, and she attended them all. We are privileged to have Tillie as a past member and have established the Tillie Award in her honor.
A little about Tillie:
Tillie “took care of business,” she was always full of energy, and eager to stay connected to the business world that tied politics and community together. She understood the importance of women networking to learn from one another. Tillie lived by what she called “The 3 C’s of Service” - committed to community, the chamber and the country. She was an active member of FCWCC for years even after she retired from PG&E Co. (after 46 years). Longevity - another fitting word to describe Tillie as she was committed to FCWCC through thick and thin. As women were not allowed in the Fresno Chamber at the time, she became one of the founders of the original “Women in Chambers of Commerce.” She exemplified the long term commitment to the success of the women’s chamber.
Tillie never missed a FCWCC meeting. She always showed up. She made a point to tell everyone how important they were to her. She held the members accountable to their commitments and encouraged them to always do our best. Tillie mentored young FCWCC members and reminded everyone that they could reach any professional goal with integrity and honesty.
Tillie was a “lady” with a clear vision of what was fair. She was outspoken, offered her opinion at FCWCC meetings, always kept the monitor on task, and she had a stern voice when necessary, reminding us of how a “lady” should debate items of concern: do your homework, never quit until you get what you want, and always listen to both sides to reach an agreement.
Tillie was proud to lead the FCWCC membership in the Pledge of Allegiance and her voice rang out above others. She was also proud to be an American; her mother came from Sweden and received a U.S. flag upon becoming a U.S. citizen. Tillie made it a practice of raising and lowering the flag at home every morning and night. She described the flag as a “symbol of brotherhood and love in the greatest country in the world."
Tillie was famous at FCWCC events for her floppy red hats, large colorful glasses and quick wit.
A friend and past President of FCWCC, Rose Willems, had this to say about Tillie, “I got to know Tillie when she was in her 80’s. She had an amazing memory as well as an eye for detail. She lead by example, knowing the power of her dazzling smile, and she had gained the wisdom of understanding the fine balance between family, career and desire for adventure. She witnessed many positive changes for business women over the years and was always supportive of female colleagues' achievements. I enjoyed my friendship with Tillie and was challenged as President of FCWCC to make sure I always had my facts straight before I presented items to the membership." Tillie made sure every FCWCC event she attended was a lively one, with interesting conversation as well as opportunities to learn more about her life experiences. Tillie was the first woman to serve as President of the Fresno Republican Assembly in 1972.
Tillie Tuschhoff was born May 16, 1909 in Fresno County and died on February 23, 2006 in Fresno County.
In Tillie’s honor the Chamber planted a tree in Woodward Park by the north entrance, and the board continues to honor Tillie by recognizing a deserving member of the Chamber each year.
In bestowing a member each year with the Tillie award, we look for nominees who exemplify these strong characteristics; commitment, length of time as a member, strong and relevant in the community, and if they promote and encourage women to come to FCWCC events. An organization is only as strong as its members.