William H. “Bill” Gillespie, 93 Fort Collins, Colo., formerly of Ellis, died Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, at Centre Ave. Rehab, Fort Collins.
He was born Nov. 30, 1925, in Elk City, Okla., to Millard F. and Bettie (Davis) Gillespie.
He spent his early years in Oklahoma, moving to California shortly after the start of World War II in 1941. He moved to Kansas in 1943 at age 17 where he met and married Verneita Fischer. They were both working at Boeing Aircraft on the second B29 that Boeing was building for the war. He was a U.S. Navy veteran, and was originally trained as a tail gunner for the Douglas SBD plane but the war had ended in Europe so he was sent to Hawaii for radar counter measure training, and was assigned to a night Air Group VTN 52 aboard the carrier Bon Homme Richard. After leaving Pearl Harbor, he was put on hold at the Island of Guam because two atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan. He was fortunate not to have been in actual combat and was discharged in February 1946.
He had several business ventures in his long life from owning the Fairlawn Dairy, the Firestone store and oil hauling truck in Kansas. After moving back to California in 1955, he worked for Helm’s Bakery and Coca Cola while waiting to be begin the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Academy. He had many interesting experiences working as a sargaent homicide detective for Los Angeles County. He suffered a severe heart attack in July 1974 and was medically retired.
They moved back to Kansas in 1977 and spent several years traveling and visiting their family. They traveled to all 50 states in their lifetime plus Germany, Hong Kong, China, Egypt, Philippine Islands, and England. He visited Veteran memorials with the Honor Flight in Washington D.C. in 2010.
Survivors include his wife, Lois (Kelsch-Geyer) Gillespie, of the home in Fort Collins; two sons, Ron Gillespie and wife, BettyJo, Alpine, Utah, and Gene Gillespie and wife, Rinda, Fort Collins; two daughters, Pat Deutscher and husband, Steve, Clay Center, and Karen Ware and husband, Danny, Blanchard, Okla.; 10 Grandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren; four stepchildren; four step-grandchildren; and seven step-great- grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Verneita of 56 years in 1999; two brothers, Millard C. Gillespie and Eugene L. Gillespie.
Services will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at Ellis United Methodist Church; burial will be at 1 p.m. in Plainville Cemetery with military honors.
Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Keithley Funeral Chapel, 400 E. 17th Ellis, KS 67637 and from 9 a.m. until time of service Thursday at the church.
Memorials are suggested to the Ellis Public Library in care of the chapel.
Condolences may be left by guest book at www.keithleyfuneralchapels.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.