Jerry Tillem passed away on Thursday morning, October 15, 2015 at his home in Atlanta. Jerry, affectionately called “Jer” or “J.T.” by family and friends, was a kind, compassionate and giving man, whose business success masked a humble philanthropy. Born in Atlanta on August 2, 1937 to Ben and Bella (Rubin) Tillem, Jerry had an early devotion to his Jewish faith and attended the Talmudical Academy of Baltimore in Maryland, during his youth. He returned to Atlanta and graduated from Grady High School before attending both Georgia State and Emory University. He met the love of his life and best friend, Yvonne “Buff” Slesinger, and married in 1959. Jerry worked in the jewelry and chemical supply business before starting ATCO International in 1961, a company specializing in maintenance and chemical products. ATCO would become one of the largest distributors in the United States, Canada and abroad. He also founded Innovative Promotions, a promotional products company, in 1975 and soon began to expand his interests to include real estate development and investment and restaurants, eventually becoming a partner in the Marietta Family Restaurants. Jerry had a passion for his wife and his daughters, Michelle and Wendi, and loved 1950s music, sports, traveling and cooking. He was a devoted Jew, attending services for many years at Ahavath Achim in Atlanta before joining Congregation B’nai Torah in 2009, where he could be found on most Friday nights. He donated anonymously to many Atlanta and national Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, and his selfless support has helped build a future for so many. He is survived by his daughters, Michelle Tillem Sims (Chris) and Wendi Tillem (Lloyd Wynn); grandchildren, Ethan and Arden Frank of Atlanta; sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Marilyn and Bill Hartman of Roswell; and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his wife of 54 years, Yvonne; his parents, Ben and Bella Tillem; and his brothers, Larry Tillem and Melvin P. Tillem. An online guestbook is available at www.edressler.com. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Congregation B’nai Torah, 700 Mt. Vernon Hwy., Atlanta, GA 30328. Graveside services will be held at noon Sunday, Oct. 18, at Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs, with Rabbi Joshua Heller officiating. Arrangements by Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care, 770-451-4999.
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