William J. Gillespie remembered as philanthropist, dapper dresser, fun guy – Orange County Register


He was a group chief supporting native performing arts, a renaissance man, a dapper dresser and a enjoyable man with a unusual humorousness. Associates and colleagues had been remembering philanthropist William J. Gillespie who died of pure causes on Thursday, Dec. 10. A Laguna Seaside resident, he was 79.

“He had fairly a various background,” stated John Guinnin, a board member of the William Gillespie Basis. “He was a Marine, after which after all he was a man from theater, ballet, dance, he had all of those loves, and he was very beneficiant to all of those completely different Orange County organizations. He had an exquisite humorousness, very sudden, and he actually marched to his personal drum,” Guinnin stated.

Gillespie had already given $6.6 million to Orange County arts organizations, together with the Pacific Chorale, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and South Coast Repertory, when in July 2007 he determined to make a contribution of $2.5 million to the then Orange County Performing Arts Heart, which as we speak is the Segerstrom Heart for the Arts. The earlier yr Arts Orange County gave him a Helena Modjeska Neighborhood Visionary award, which honors lifetime achievements.

Guinnin stated Gillespie grew to become all for classical music as a result of whereas dwelling in a army barracks he would hear music coming by way of a doorway and would decelerate to hear. “The man observed him and Invoice stated, ‘What’s that music?’ He introduced Invoice in, launched him to classical music and so they ended up being roommates,” Guinnin stated.

“The man” grew to become famend American conductor Lawrence Foster. But it surely wasn’t simply music. Gillespie’s performing arts pursuits expanded to bop and that may be a massive a part of his legacy. He served on the board of American Ballet Theatre and was instrumental in offering funding for the ABT William J. Gillespie College at Segerstrom Heart for the Arts, the place dancers from ages 3-18 research with lecturers from one of many nation’s premier firms.

“He was actually an angel to offer so generously to construct the college,” stated its principal, Alaine Hubert. She stated Gillespie by no means turned down an invite to look at courses and attend performances.

“He was like just a little child. He can be so excited,” she stated. “And he simply had so many questions, like a really vibrant baby who’s so interested in every little thing that’s occurring round him.”

Gillespie received to know the school and saved observe of scholars’ progress. Segerstrom Heart President Casey Reitz stated attending a 2019 efficiency of “The Nutcracker” with Gillespie was memorable.

“Invoice had a operating commentary through the manufacturing, mentioning every pupil to us and telling us who they’re, how lengthy they’ve been in this system, how a lot they’d grown as artists throughout that time period,” Reitz stated. “His intimate information of every a kind of college students was wonderful. He was actually invested in all of their lives and clearly considered them as his household, as his kids. And I do know they thought the identical of him. It was simply so beautiful.”

Gillespie additionally supported the Pacific Symphony and was remembered in President John Forsyte’s most up-to-date weblog publish, “He developed an important affection for the extremely non secular works such because the Duruflé Requiem, Mahler’s Second and Eighth Symphonies, and different massive orchestral works. It was all the time a pleasure for me to speak about repertoire with him, ship him the newest recording … and he all the time expressed appreciation for the items of artists.”

Gillespie gave to the Laguna Dance Competition, to charities equivalent to AIDS Companies Basis, and to UC Irvine with contributions to the dance program and naming items to the  Efficiency Studios on the Claire Trevor College of the Arts and the Neuroscience Analysis Facility.

Having grown up in Santa Ana, Gillespie was a graduate of Cal Sate Lengthy Seaside. Broad pursuits — he studied Russian — and dedication outlined him. He served a 13-month fight tour in Vietnam and have become a captain.

“He didn’t like to speak about that point and I sense that he silently carried some scars,” Guinnin stated. “He was massively supportive of vets in his charitable giving. His army ethos was at his core. He was extremely disciplined.”

He all the time appeared to internalize individuals’s wants and reply with compassion.

“As soon as he realized of a younger man in Texas with paralyzed legs who wanted a automotive with a carry to guide a purposeful life and Invoice reached out to purchase one for him,” Guinnin stated. “He simply favored doing issues like this.”

In 1994, he based the William Gillespie Basis, which has supported greater than 100 instructional, veteran, environmental, animal care, household, elder care and inventive organizations since its inception.

Gillespie didn’t want a profession — his grandfather had invested early on in a good friend’s enterprise which grew to become Farmers Insurance coverage Group — however at age 60 he realized the commerce and have become a funeral director at Pacific View Memorial Park & Mortuary in Corona del Mar, volunteering at first.

His curiosity within the enterprise began in his late teenagers and early 20s, stated his colleague Ruby Louis, normal supervisor at Pacific View.

“He labored for a elimination firm,” she stated. “When individuals handed away, he would go and choose up the deceased and produce them into the care of the funeral residence. He began fairly younger in his life after which he all the time had a need to do extra. It wasn’t till the ’90s that he began working right here at Pacific View.”

She labored with him for 20 years, saying he was a sort one that adored his cats. “There was the Abyssinian, Tyrell, and the Savannahs, Jambo, Chigaro and Zuri. He’d typically take them alongside on holidays to Palm Springs and referred to them as his youngsters, whom he spoiled rotten,” she stated.

However on the job, Gillespie was “so skilled.” “He had an important humorousness as nicely, however when it got here to directing companies right here at Pacific View, he was all the time spot on, carrying himself with the utmost dignity. And once more, he got here dressed to the very best,” she stated.

Companies for Gillespie will probably be non-public, in line with a spokesperson for the house. However though will probably be a small gathering, Gillespie is bound to have many extra buddies, colleagues and acquaintances remembering him now and all the time.

“He was very hip and funky,” Reitz stated . “He was sassy and humorous and only a pleasure to be round. You simply felt such as you had been cool once you had been round him.”

“He had a real appreciation for all that’s lovely as a result of it wasn’t simply dance,” stated Judy Morr, Segerstrom Heart govt vp. “Have a look at these contributions: It was music, it was artwork. He was wherever the humanities wanted him. That’s the place Invoice was. You’d ask, and he would allow you to.”


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