The following is adapted from an earlier tribute
to Aita Tillous by NABO; in 2002 he was
presented NABO's "Bizi Emankorra" or lifetime
contribution award. He served as Basque
chaplain since 1994 until cancer would not let
him continue any longer. He left the world
after a year-long battle with cancer in 2009.
chaplains in America
tribute booklet (pdf)
We have not
heard about an official place so far for
memorial donations and will post that
when we do. Something to
consider if you'd like to donate in his
memory could be the newly founded
"Aita Martxel Tillous" NABO Youth Aid Fund
This was started this year to help
provide financial aid--when money
becomes the biggest obstacle--for Basque
youth to participate in Basque programs.
Tillous was born in 1934 in the Basque town of
Xiberoa. Following his calling he entered the
priesthood and began work as a missionary for 26
four years as the Basque chaplain for the Basque
from where he came
to serve as chaplain of Basque-Americans since
1994, until he could no longer continue because
of the onset of cancer.
It turned out
that Aita Martxel was the last in a line of earlier Basque
chaplains. His ministry as chaplain to the
Basques of the
had him criss-crossing
the country averaging 60,000 miles a year! He
usually spent 200 nights a year sleeping in his
van—with the license plate “Pottoka”—as he
traveled from his base in
to the scattered Basque
communities of eleven states of the American
West. All of this to serve the spiritual needs
of Basque-Americans—from celebrating mass in the
Basque language to baptizing, marrying Basque
couples and consoling us at funerals.
In 2002 our chaplain from Zuberoa
was recognized by NABO with its "Bizi Emankorra"
or Lifetime Contribution award, for both his spiritual and
cultural contributions. An avid txistulari,
Aita Martxel was often seen and heard playing
this ancient Basque flute (or its variation the
xirula). He served
as the txistu instructor at NABOs annual
Udaleku-Music Camp (Basque Cultural Summer Camp)
for youth for most all his years with us. After a Basque picnic meal he
always there to join in a sing-along or to help
encourage the formation of new Basque cultural
venture. He also started a newsletter
(“Lokarria”) that goes out to thousands of
Basque-American families and thus further
assisting efforts to bring our community closer
NABO salutes Aita Martxel’s
self-less dedication to his tasks and we
consider ourselves fortunate to have been
blessed with his presence among us.
Esker mila Aita
"He was a quiet, unassuming, gentle, holy man.
When people these days get discouraged with
their priests and don’t feel that they are
practicing what they preach, all they would have
to do is look at the wonderful example that Aita
Tillous gave to us. He lived for years and
years in Africa helping the poor; he traded in
his apartment for a little room in the Euskal
Etxea of San Francisco to be close to the
people; he drove thousands of miles to share in
the most important days of many families’ lives;
he took time to teach children the gift of
music; and he sang like God himself was coming
through his lungs. He was such a good man and
such a great example of what a priest can be."
San Frantziskotik trixte kantuz nahiz hasi
Marzel zure berri daute helarazi
Neure baitan halere ezin dut sinetsi
Mundutik joateko gaituzula utzi.
Amerikan zuk egin dituzunak
gure laguntzen gau eta egunak
Galde hau entzun otoi zeruko Jaun onak
Ordaintzen-hal dazkotzu guk zor dazkogunak.
Senditzen dituztanak ezin erran elhez
bat izan zaitut Marzel anitz urtez
Begirik hetsi gabe hasten naiz nigarrez
Maite zaitudalakotz gogo 'ta bhhotzez.