Hiawatha Tyrone McMillian was born June 19,1958, the oldest of three sons, to Elder Pearline Spruill McMillian and the late Bishop Caleb Junior McMillian. In a swift transition, God quietly called Tyrone home on May 4, 2020.
Tyrone’s early education began in Chatham County. In 1976 he graduated from Lee County High School where he excelled in bricklaying and won a state championship award. Tyrone attended Greensboro Methodist College (1976-1978) where he majored in Physical Education and Recreation. He also served as bass player for the Neo-Black Society Gospel Choir at UNC-Greensboro. It was during his freshman year of college that he met Valerie Marie Bass, an honor student at UNC-G and member of the choir. After a long courtship, they married on January 14, 1984 and moved to Cary NC.
Tyrone grew up in Chatham and Lee Counties in a home with two loving and devoted Christian parents, both of whom held high standards and tremendous devotion to God and the holiness way. From an early age Tyrone helped his parents as they physically and spiritually built the Oak Grove Holiness Church in Sanford and the St. Luke Holiness Church in Siler City. Even though there were struggles and challenges, Tyrone saw the joy shared by his parents in serving God and others. He, too, desired to serve God in that sacrificial way and was saved by faith in Jesus Christ in his youth. He remained faithful in his walk until his death.
Tyrone was an ordained deacon at the Oak Grove Church where he also served as a Sunday School teacher and superintendent. He was church treasurer, a leader of children and youth ministries, head of the Cemetery Committee and head of the Mission Committee for many years. A jack of many trades, Tyrone was often sought out when repairs and maintenance were needed at both churches. If he was not able to fix the problem, he would offer to help with the cost of the repair.
Musically gifted, Tyrone began to beat the drums in the church at a young age. As he and his skills grew, he took up playing both lead and bass guitars and later the keyboard. While in college Tyrone was introduced to contemporary choirs and jazzy styles of gospel music, which he came to love. On weekend trips home, he began to play these new styles of music in worship at both churches but with a Holy Ghost –filled anointing.
As his musical repertoire increased, so did requests for him to play the bass and later, keyboard. In 1986 Tyrone was invited to play the bass guitar on Deliverance Cathedral of Love (Raleigh NC) Action Choir’s album, “Don’t Give Up.” He travelled with the choir to Pennsylvania and Mississippi for concerts.
Tyrone’s love for church music opened many doors for him and won him many musician friends and special recognitions. Whether performing by himself on keyboard or bass, or with his brothers, Shawn (bass) and Dell (saxophone), Tyrone knew how to make a joyful noise to the Lord, and his face showed it.
Tyrone and Valerie enjoyed a good life together. They spent most of their vacations either at a beach or in the mountains with the family dog(s) along for the adventure. Tyrone loved basketball; was a UNC Tar Heels and Dallas Cowboys fan, and owned a Honda goldwing which he loved to put in the wind. Having no children of their own, Tyrone took on the role of play parent for some of the church children. As a result, Tyrone was affectionately called “Uncle Ty” by many of them.
Tyrone’s friendly smile, sense of humor, and gentle disposition made him a great son, brother, husband, uncle, co-worker, friend and mentor. Tyrone’s gift of working with his hands led him to a nearly 40-year career in manufacturing as a machinist, completing coursework for journeyman certification at Wake Tech in Raleigh. He was employed with a number of companies in both Lee and Wake counties. When he wasn’t working in manufacturing, he found work as a commercial truck driver.
In addition to his father, Tyrone is predeceased by one brother, Irving Randell (Dell) McMillian (2018). He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Valerie Bass McMillian, of the home; this “man’s best friend,” Sasha, of the home; his mother, Pearline McMillian of Sanford NC; his brother, Shawn McMillian of Garner NC; a mother-in-law, Evelyn Bass; two sisters-in-law, Joyce Valentine (Willard) and Vickie Bass; a niece, Jada McMillian; a nephew, David Edwards; a goddaughter, Lucretia Landis, a god-sister, Sandra Melvin; and many other relatives and close friends.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held at the Oak Grove Holiness Church in Sanford, NC at a date to be determined.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be given to Oak Grove Holiness Church, Sanford or St. Luke Holiness Church, Siler City.
The McMillian family wishes to thank their friends and neighbors for the many comforting expressions of kindness and sympathy extended to us during the passing and bereavement of our loved one. May God continue to richly bless each of you.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in Tyrone's memory to:
Oak Grove Holiness Church
P O. Box 5205
Sanford NC 27331
St. Luke Holiness Church
P O Box 272
Siler City NC 27344.
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