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Philip Wayne Gillett

Philip Wayne Gillett, born on November 21, 1927, liked to tell his story of being born in a log cabin in Oregon and that his father “rode fence” as an Idaho rancher. The West was in his blood. After his military service, he taught mathematics at the University of Wisconsin for over 40 years, but his heart was always in Colorado. He visited his parents, Clarence and Leah Gillett, in Estes Park whenever he could. He married Jeanne Marie Chambers on July 14, 1950; they had two daughters. Some years after Jeanne’s tragic death, he was introduced to Cordelia “Dooie” Adams at a party given by their mutual friend and pastor, Father Bernard McGarty. Father McGarty had assigned Phil the job of mixing cocktails; Phil would have died rather than admit that he knew nothing of that art, so he declined Dooie’s proffered help and proceeded to mix sweet vermouth with gin, which caused at least one guest to dispose of his drink in a nearby flower pot. But from that day on, it was true love. Phil & Dooie married six months later on the Feast of the Holy Rosary in 1961, and God soon blessed their union with three more daughters and three sons.

His life was marked by his conversion as a young man to Catholicism; throughout his life he lived the Faith in its fullness and was known by many for his articulate and vigorous defense and love of the Truth in Jesus Christ. In particular he loved to quote G.K. Chesterton in his daily—even hourly—discussions of the Faith with Dooie, his family, and his friends. Family catechesis occurred most frequently at Mom’s beautiful dinner table, where Dad would regularly put the meal on hold while he went to consult a text and then read it aloud at length.

He took joy in many things; in the introduction to the first of many mathematics textbooks he authored, he mentioned three of his greatest passions: “For there is a fresh wind blowing and we may yet again do things like mountains and music and mathematics simply because they are hard and clean and clear in the morning.” He had a multitudinous classical music collection; he kept a 300-page, single-spaced index of his CD collection. Most amazingly, he listened to all of it… over and over and over, and he collected his very favorites in a list he called his “Death Bed Music” that he expected us to play for him as he was dying. We did, hoping he was hearing those beloved melodies and enjoying them as we were. As for mathematics, he taught many thousands of students at the University of Wisconsin, in Wisconsin prisons, and at the University of Shah Alam in Malaysia. And the mountains? His love-affair with the high places ends only in death. With Dooie hiking circles around him, he explored every peak and valley of Rocky Mountain National Park during his life. He climbed Longs Peak 37 times; his final ascent was in his mid-70s. Dooie, his children, and grandchildren treasure the memories of hiking with him. His wit was at its finest on the trail, and he encouraged generations of young hikers along with lemon drops and encouraging phrases such as, “Let’s skip this part and come in higher up” or “My mother never told me it would be uphill.”

He died peacefully at home on Friday, July 13, 2012, in Estes Park, CO, surrounded by his wife and family. He is survived by his beloved wife Cordelia, his sister Shirley Back of Gridley, California, and his eight children: Patricia Jane (& Rick) Sommersberger of Sheboygan, WI; Anne Catherine (& Daniel) Speckhard of McLean, VA; Maria Cordelle (& Andy) Santo of Columbia, MD; Joan Marie (& Patrick) Carey of Mt. Vernon, WI; John Robert (& Michele) Gillett of Mt. Vernon, WI; Bernard John (& Sally) Gillett of Longmont, CO; Mary Clare (& Steve) Kemper of Anchorage, AK; and Robert Francis (& Laura) Gillett of Berthoud, CO.

Phil is also survived by 31 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. Remarkably, he prayed daily for all his children and grandchildren by first and middle name. Some of us felt that he knew our children’s names better than we did! They are: Patricia’s children Rachel Anne (& Matt Orth; children Sophia and Amelia), Rebekah Diane (& Adam Schroeder), and Heidi Maria (& B.J. Harry; baby in utero); Anne’s children Leah Catherine, Jessica Carol Anne (& Ziga Savc; child Katarina), and Daniel Thomas Theodore; Joan’s children John Paul, Thomas James (& Sonia Carey), Peter Francis, Michael Joseph, Stephen Andrew, and Catherine Maria; John’s children Philip Steven, Mary Cordelia, Andrew Jerome, Monica Rose, and baby in utero; Bernard’s children Katherine Cordelia, Claire Margaret, Mary Rose, Elise Anne, and Jeremy Bernard; Mary’s children Robert Francis, Joseph Anthony, Daniel John, Michael Philip, and Thomas Benedict; and Robert’s children Benjamin Michael, Madeleine Mary, Kevin Patrick, and Margaret Veronica.

He was preceded in death by his first wife Jeanne, parents Clarence and Leah Gillett, and his sister Jean Ferris.

The vigil, including a Rosary, was held on Sunday, July 15, 2012, at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church, Estes Park, Colorado. There was an all-night Eucharistic Adoration at the church from 8:30 p.m. – 7:00 a.m. where family and friends were welcomed to come and pray. The funeral Mass was held on Monday, July 16, 2012 and was celebrated by Father Gregory Cioch and concelebrated by Father Joseph Hartmann and Father John Putka. Funeral arrangements were made through Allnutt Funeral Home in Estes Park. The family is deeply grateful to Bill Smith at Allnutt and to all the wonderful staff at Estes Park Hospice. Donations may be made to the Philip Gillett Memorial Fund, c/o Bank of Estes Park, P.O. Box 2390, Estes Park, CO 80517. This fund will be distributed to Philip’s favorite charities. Please view the online obituary, send condolences and sign the family guest book at



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