Cover photo for Dawn Tilley Watkins's Obituary
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1933 Dawn 2021

Dawn Tilley Watkins

October 31, 1933 — September 17, 2021

Dawn Tilley Watkins, 87, went to be with the Lord on September 17, 2021. A native of Durham, she was born to William Arthur Tilley and Jessie B. Hayes Tilley on October 31, 1933. Dawn was teased over the years as a “Halloween” baby. She was the oldest of four children, Yvonne T. Ray (Carey), William Arthur Tilley, Jr., and Bobby G. Tilley (Judi). She attended Oak Grove High School.

For over 20 years, she was employed by GTE/Verizon and enjoyed meeting people in her customer service position. She had also worked at Belk-Leggett in Durham. As a retiree, she worked for EPA in RTP.

Dawn moved from Durham in 1960 with her children and husband, Lewis E. McMannen, to various North Carolina towns including Buies Creek, Fayetteville, and the Granville County towns of Stem and Oxford. She eventually returned to Durham, where she relished living in close proximity to her adult daughters and their families.

Recently, Dawn moved from her home in Woodcroft, Durham, to assisted living in Chapel Hill where she enjoyed making new friends and practicing her recently discovered artistic talent in her painting classes. She became the unofficial narrator during tours in downtown Durham, sharing her extensive historical knowledge and love of Durham with her tour group.
Dawn had a lifelong passion for the beach, enjoying walks in the fresh air. Among highlights of her life were her Caribbean cruises and trip to the Hawaiian Islands. She also enjoyed trips to the mountains of NC, but her heart always resided at the sea. Her last painting was a beach scene with a chair ready for her to occupy. One of her favorite quotes was, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea” - Isak Dinesen.

Throughout her life Dawn lived within a large and cherished circle of friends. Whether old or new, young or not-so-young, her friends shared a common love for her. She loved adventure, traveling across the US by train in her late teens, but her favorite pastime was sitting on the porch, greeting neighbors and friends, and drinking her morning coffee or afternoon tea.
Most of all, Dawn was the center of her family’s lives. Her grandchildren and great grandchildren were the light of her life and she loved each one dearly. Her life was forever changed when her oldest daughter Cindy, passed away in 2009. For the past 12 years she has missed her dearly each and every day.

Dawn took delight in all four seasons, from baking pecan balls for friends and family at Christmas to gardening in the spring and summer. She loved music and sang in the church choir most of her life. She was a lifelong, diehard Carolina Tarheels fan! As an active member of her book club, she loved reading, researching authors and suggesting books for the group.
She was a woman of strong faith and a longtime member of Triangle Grace Church in Durham. She met the strong winds of life with courage and strength. Her greatest gift was caring for others. Her list of “favorite things” included “helping others” and “holding babies”. When she learned of her recent diagnosis, she showed no fear and shed no tears. She knew that she was going to meet her Savior and was at peace. Upon her death, we found her Bible opened to this passage:

30 “Even youths grow tired and weary;
and young men stumble and fall,
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
They will run and not be grow weary;
They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40: 30-31).

Dawn is survived by two daughters, Renee McMannen-Beard (Keith) and Holly Rogers (Doug) of Durham, NC, and four grandsons, Walt Rogers of Beaufort, NC; Miles Rogers of Durham, Carl Roche (Kathy, Emma, and Garrett) of Wendell and Kevin Roche (Rebekah, Landon and Lily) of Clayton, as well as many beloved nieces and nephews. She is predeceased by her parents and daughter, Cindy McMannen Roche and Cindy’s husband, Don Roche of Durham, as well as all her siblings.
Mother . . . Amama . . . Geema . . . for all the times that you dried our tears, for all the times that you gave us hugs, we are grateful for your love. We thank you for leading us with your faith, for reading to us and sharing your stories, and for being the center of our family circle. We will miss you dearly, but you will remain in our hearts always. We love you!

The committal service will be private for the family. A Celebration of Life service will scheduled at a later date due to current health environment.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her memory to Triangle Grace Church, 5001 Tudor Place, Durham, NC 27713.

“Our lives are albums written through
With good or ill, with false or true;
And as the blessed angels turn
The pages of our years,
God grant they read the good with smiles
And blot the ill with tears!”
– John Greenleaf Whittier

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Dawn Tilley Watkins, please visit our flower store.

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