Harrell Nelson Gillis – Colonel, United States Army

Colonel Harrell Nelson Gillis United States Army
28 July 1925 – 14 March 21003
Arlington National Cemetery
Section 67 Site 4010

Colonel Harrell N. Gillis, 77, U.S. Army (Retired) of Newport News, Virginia, a distinguished veteran of World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War, was an officer and a gentleman. He died peacefully at home after an extended battle against cancer, renal failure and diabetes on March 14, 2003.

He was born to the late Fanny Mack and Dorothy Glenn Gillis on July 28, 1925 in Petersburg, Virginia and lived there until his enlistment in the U.S. Navy at age 17. He was a combat veteran of World War ll (1943 – 1946) serving aboard the escort ship USS White Plains (CVE66) and an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. He continued to serve in the U.S. Naval Reserve earning his commission through Army ROTC while attending Virginia State College.

While in college he met and married his beloved wife, the former Ceres Brooks. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Sociology and joined the U.S. Army specializing in Quartermaster, Aviation and Logistics.

Between 1951 and 1974, the Gillises had tours that took them and their five children to Virginia, Germany, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Alabama, Alaska, Missouri and again to Germany. During his career, Colonel Gillis had many unaccompanied training assignments in the United States, and foreign tours of duty to Japan, Korea and twice to Vietnam. He received numerous awards and commendations, including the Legion of Merit for his services in the Republic of Vietnam and the Legion of Merit with First Oak Leaf Cluster, for his service culminating as Director of Logistics, United States Army Transportation Center and Ft. Eustis.

His service, dedication and devotion to Aviation and the Transportation Corps were his shining moments. In 1974, Colonel Gillis retired to Newport News after a distinguished military career.

Following the military, Colonel Gillis worked for Bell Helicopter International, Pentran, MONY Insurance and Philip Morris U.S.A.. He retired from the corporate sector in 1980.

Colonel Gillis continued to be a loving husband, father and friend to all who knew him. Throughout his military career, he was known for his honesty and integrity and these characteristics were exhibited in the corporate sector as well. His children learned by his great example.

Colonel Gillis was a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Mathews, Virginia, and Regimental Memorial Chapel at Fort Eustis. Wherever he was stationed around the globe, he sang in the church choirs. He was known for his beautiful baritone voice.

In his last twenty-two years, Colonel Gillis read voraciously, enjoyed listening to classical music and loved his family. He became a tireless volunteer for several local services, including the American Red Cross, MacDonald Army Community Hospital and Ft. Eustis Consignment Shop and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). COL Gillis felt his retirement gave him an opportunity to give back to his community.

Besides Ceres, his loving wife of 52 years, other survivors include his children Harrell (Erleen) Gillis, Jr. of Silver Spring, Maryland, Cathy (Skip) Long of Lake Bluff, Illinois, Rondy (Donnie) Best of Oxon Hill, Maryland, Renee (Kevin) Brown of Torrance, California and Stephen Gillis of Asheville, North Carolina; grandchildren Carroll Jr. and Michel Warfield, Stephen, Adam and Shannon Brown, Robert and Jennifer Long; and step-grandchildren, Shannon, Marshae, Donnie Jr., DeAundra and Daniel Best; one loving brother-in-law, Warren Brooks, two devoted sisters-in-law, Victorine Brooks and Hyacinth Wade; three nephews, George Macklin, Lawrence and Paul Williams; and many other loving relatives and a host of caring friends.

The family would like to express its deepest gratitude to the following for their care and compassion: Dr. Bruce Booth and the staff at Virginia Oncology; Drs. David Connito and John Gretes at the Center for Renal Medicine, Riverside Hospital and Home Health and the EMT's at Mar-Mac Transportation Services.

A memorial service celebrating his life was held at 1:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 19, 2003 at the Ft. Eustis Regimental Memorial Chapel with Chaplain (Colonel) Hanson R. Boney officiating. Interment was at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 25, 2003.

In his memory, mends may make donations to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 1311 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains, NY 10605, or the National Kidney Foundation of the Virginia's, 1515 North Military Highway, Norfolk, Virginia 23502.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 07/28/1925
  • DATE OF DEATH: 03/14/2003

5 August 2005:

“I humbly offer this obituary from my best friend in high-school dad's obituary.

“Colonel Gillis was a fine man and officer, who acted as an example to many. A true son of Virginia, he never forgot that ‘duty is the most sublime word in the English language.'

“Both my father and Colonel Gillis raised sons that both went into the military and served well past our obligations.

“Recently when talking with Colonel Gillis’ son Harrell, he mentioned that he knew I couldn't make it to my father's grave site this past Memorial Day and that he went by and made sure everything was “inspection ready” and placed flowers beside the flag.

“It would be an honor if I could submit this memorial for the Gillis family.

“I will be in the DC area for business next week and I plan to take a picture of Col. Gillis’ headstone to forward to you.

“Robert K. Shiflet”

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