Memorial services Thursday for longtime local Terry Gillis
A memorial service for longtime valley resident Terrence James “Terry” Gillis will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday at Beaver Creek Chapel. A reception will be held afterwards in the chapel basement.Gillis, a talented mason and a project manager for the Vail Masonry Division of the Gallegos Corp., died March 18 of natural causes at his home on Eby Creek Mesa. He left a legacy behind him in the masonry work he was involved with in the valley, and in the family that he loved.Gillis had a reputation for being a hard worker, a good friend and a family man.”He built beautiful things with his hands,” recalls Glen Gallegos of the corporation. Gillis worked with that company for 23 years. By some estimates, he probably was involved in at least half of the stonework at Beaver Creek. Gillis had a knack for finding dimensional solutions to problems that other people couldn’t figure out. “He was very talented. He was not only a mason, but a designer,” says Andy Romero, who worked with Gillis for those 23 years. Even as a project superintendent, he was the kind of boss who liked to get involved.”He would get his hands dirty, and show guys how to do it. He wanted everybody to better themselves,” remembers Romero. Gillis’ masonry talent is evident in the baptismal at the Beaver Creek Chapel. He also worked on many private residences.Lifelong friendsGillis was born Dec. 14, 1954, in Detroit. Some of the friends that he made while attending a Catholic grade school and Jesuit prep high school remain close to this day.
“He was a bright, shining star,” says Bob Murelli of Concord, Calif., who grew up with Gillis. He describes Gillis as a guy with a cutting wit, who was nonetheless dedicated to people.”He liked to party, and he liked to have fun,” says Murelli. Gillis was also very practical. When friends became involved in some high-flying scheme, it was Gillis who could bring them back down to earth with some realistic observations and witty remarks.Always a hard worker, Gillis started delivering papers and mowing lawns when he was 14 years old to help pay his school tuition. He worked his way through high school and college. Gillis graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in political science. He never planned to be a stone mason, explains his wife, Stephanie. After college, he got a job doing artistic stone work in Detroit. He and another childhood friend, John Woolley, headed out to Colorado in 1982 to do masonry work.They ended up in the valley in 1982, and were hired by Gallegos as masons.”Terry was a good friend and a great human being. He never judged people, never dwelled on the negative. He was the most fun-loving person I’ve ever known,” says Woolley.Among the projects Gillis worked on were the Snow Cloud project at Beaver Creek, and the Village Hall. Eventually, Gillis worked his way up to a project manager position.He met his wife, Stephanie, when he agreed to coach a women’s softball team in 1983. She was not one of the more talented players, and spent a fair amount of time sitting on the bench. The coach, who was actually rather shy with women despite his quick wit, would find a reason to sit beside her. They were married in Massachusetts in 1984.Like many locals, the Gillises gradually migrated from Vail to the west end of the valley while raising their three sons, Harrison, Daniel and Edward (Teddy). He was the kind of dad who would step up to help out with the Little League games, and would help his sons hone their baseball skills at home.
Gillis himself played on the Gallegos softball team for years, either at first base or as pitcher. His ball-playing skills dwindled somewhat with middle age.”He struck out at slow-pitch,” confide his sons, with remembering smiles. No doubt that earned some teasing back at home.He taught his kids to fish, which involved hours of untangling fishing line and replacing lost bait. Gillis himself rarely had the time to actually fish.Glen Gallegos recalls that Gillis could be “kind of gruff,” a trait that people who knew him well learned to overlook. Despite his talk that the family did not need more kids or more pets, the Gillises at one point ended with three cats and a dog. One of the cats would curl up with Terry to sleep.The family Christmas-tree hunting trips were legendary. Something always happened – like the year that Terry insisted on cutting what Stephanie had noted was a very large tree. He had to trim it numerous times before it would fit in the house.Then there was the year he added Miracle Grow fertilizer to the water in the tree stand. Within days, the tree lost all of its needles, leaving only lights and ornaments. “Dad killed the Christmas tree,” teased the Gillis boys, who were well on the way to developing their own senses of humor.The entire family enjoys water sports, and all three boys earned Boy Scout badges in canoeing. Just last summer, Gillis and the boys took a canoe trip on the Upper Colorado. Just a short distance into the trip, the boys wrapped their canoe around a rock so completely the vessel could not be extricated. Still, they hitched a ride down the river with other boaters, camped out at State Bridge, and managed to make a fun trip. Gillis was stoic about the loss of the canoe.
“He did threaten to take away our canoe badges,” recalls son Harrison.The family had some memorable summer vacations, including one where they visited a half dozen amusement parks between Colorado and Massachusetts – and rode the roller coasters at every one.Gillis liked to listen to the music of the Moody Blues and Jethro Tull. He tended to like older movies, and introduced his boys to such classics as “Monty Python’s Holy Grail,” “My Cousin Vinney,” and “Harold and Maude.”His co-workers say he will be missed, not only by his family, but also by the clients and architects he worked with.”Today is a very sad day for all of us at the Gallegos Corp.,” said CEO Gerald Gallegos. “Not only was Terry a hard worker, but he was a good friend and a family man. He will be sorely missed by everyone who worked with him over the years.Gillis is survived by his wife, Stephanie; his sons, Harrison, Daniel, and Teddy; his parents, Edward and Gertrude Gillis of Bloomfield Hills, Mich; and two sisters, Patricia Abbott of Michigan and Catherine Czapor of Pennsylvania. He was preceded in death by a brother, Randy.Memorial contributions should be directed to the Terrence Gillis Memorial Fund in care of Firstbank of Avon, P.O. Drawer 5270, Avon, Colo. 81620. Friends are welcome to stop by the family home at Eby Creek Mesa, north of Eagle.Vail, Colorado