Hart Tillett was born in Belize in 1939, back when it was British Honduras. He grew up as a farm boy and retired from a career in banking after earning a degree in Economics in Canada. He is the father of four, plays cricket, is a certified open-water scuba diver and writer of historical fiction who started taking violin lessons when he was in his 60s.
Q: Tell us a little more about you—where you’re from, day job, night job, favorite color, favorite shoes, guilty pleasure, wildest dream?
A: I left home at thirteen to go to high school in Belize City, the capital, on a scholarship to a technical school operated by the government. I then became a teacher, met Elfreda, the most beautiful woman I’ve known, who would become my wife and the mother of our four daughters. We celebrated our golden anniversary this year. Brown is my favorite color, though my wife looks great in the darker green of a cured olive. Growing up, we listened to a radio station from Harlingen, Texas on our AM radio and we all learned to like country music. Then after a hurricane hit Belize in 1961, I found one of a two-volume set of Milton Cross’s Encyclopedia of the Great Composers and Their Music lying in the mud. (I got me the set later on). It was a huge lift to my music appreciation, and today I will listen to De Falla’s Noches en los Jardines de España symphony, and follow it with the rich voice of Larry Gatlin doing Broken Lady, and be touched artistically by both.
Q: Why did you audition for LTYM?
A: First, I believe that I was blessed by heaven to have had a mother like we did. She had boundless energy, was very creative, full of love for her children and largely lived her life for us. Another reason was the attachment I feel towards our writers’ association. Our president asked us to participate, and so I did. The third reason was the opportunity it offered for me to engage in two of my favorite activities—writing and drama.
Q: Was there a point in your life when you realized your own mother might have advice worth listening to?
A: I don’t believe there was ever a time when I didn’t have that feeling. This woman—my mother—was my guide from the get-go. Because she was never tired, I could not ever be either; because she read all the time, even if it was mostly from the Bible, I felt that reading constantly had to be a good thing; as she was always happy, with ever a song to sing, I could not ever be sad, even when I believed there was reason to; and because she dreamed and because she aimed for the mountain top, I grew up intolerant of shoddy work and mediocrity. Our father spent a large part of the year at the logging camps. And it was ‘Ma, as we called her, who was both mother and father to us for those months he was away. We had no options as to the role she played in our lives, nor did we wish for any.
Q: What do you hope your children learn from you?
A: Our four daughters are now grown, and we have five grands and one great grandson. I made sure as they grew up that our children understood the importance of self-esteem; that they always remembered that they lived in a community and to be mindful of the mores of the society, even as they developed their own personalities.
Q: Do you have a favorite song/movie/book/TV show about motherhood?
A: Shubert’s Ave Maria heads my list of favorite songs, and from the pop world, Just Look At Us as done by Vince Gill. Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neil made me and a room full of theater-goers cry when Love Story premiered in Ottawa, Canada. I still regard it as one of the best movies of all time, both for structure, theme, setting and superb acting. Who can ever forget the thought-provoking one-liner, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”! There are two books about motherhood that I really liked. Richard Sherman’s The Bright Promise (1947), and Francine River’s Leota’s Garden (1996).
Q: What advice would give your younger self?
A: “Don’t change anything, but start sooner wherever possible.” Especially the violin training.
The 2016 Listen To Your Mother OKC show will be held at the Will Rogers Theatre on Sunday, May 1 at 3:00pm. Tickets on sale now, proceeds benefiting Positive Tomorrows.