God calls Gordie Gillespie home


Gordie Gillespie
JCA Hall of Fame 2009
JCA Hall of Champions 2014

Joliet has lost its legend.

Whether it was coaching Joliet Catholic football, or Lewis basketball or baseball, or baseball, football or women’s basketball at St. Francis, it didn’t matter. Gillespie’s teams won, and his players ran through the wall for him. They didn’t have to be asked.

Gillespie retired from coaching in 2010 with 2,402 total victories against 1,170 losses and eight ties in the three sports combined. That’s a .672 winning percentage.

His Lewis teams won three consecutive NAIA baseball championships in the mid-1970s. His Joliet Catholic football teams won four straight state titles from 1975 through 1978 and a fifth in 1981.

‘He never wanted the glory’

Gillespie retired from college baseball coaching in 2010 as the winningest coach of all time. He had that record until University of Texas coach Augie Garrido surpassed it in 2014.

Of course, for as long as his health allowed, Gillespie never really retired. In recent years, he helped his close friend, Dan Sharp, with the Joliet Catholic football program, mentoring the quarterbacks.

“Dad coached because he loved seeing kids succeed,” said Gordie Gillespie Jr., one of Gillespie’s seven children. “What gave him the most fulfillment was being able to say, ‘Our guys succeeded.’ He never said, ‘My guys.’ He never wanted the glory.”

“He had no regrets in life. I’m sure he would say he wouldn’t change a thing. It’s sad, but now this is a time to celebrate his wonderful life.”

Beyond the field

Yet as much as Gillespie accomplished as a coach, and as much as his legend grew through the years, he was equally talented as a teacher, a public speaker and, most of all, a true friend and caring person.

“What stands out about Gordie is his unconditional love for all the players and coaches he ever came in contact with,” said Sharp, who said Gillespie always was a second father to him. “He truly cared for every other person.”

Bob Gillespie said three things stand out in what he loved about his dad.

“First, it wasn’t the number of wins,” he said. “It was all about the kids he coached. Look at how many he coached became great coaches and great people.”

“Second, it was never about him. He always wanted to know how he could help you.”

“And third, playing the game right was paramount. How you ran on and off the baseball field mattered. Doing it right was expected. Those things created that mystique. You not only had to beat Joliet Catholic’s football team, you had to beat Gordie. And a lot of teams weren’t confident they could do that.”

Gillespie’s seven children through a previous marriage are Bob, Mike, Billie, Greg, Gordie Jr., Margaret Mary and Jackie. He and his widow, Joan, have 40 grandchildren and 42 great-grandchildren between them.

Final game

When Gillespie was asked about possible retirement several years ago, he said, “God will retire me. He’ll tell me when it’s time.”

God has made his decision. Gillespie died at 8:45 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28.

Read The Herald-News (Joliet) entire story and more at: Legendary coach Gordie Gillespie dies at age 88


Public visitation is scheduled for Thursday March 5, at Covenant Community Church, 1995 Mills Road in Joliet, from 2 to 9 p.m.

On Saturday March 21 there will be a public memorial; beginning with a 9:30 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of St Raymond Nonnatus, 604 North Raynor Avenue in Joliet.  This will be followed by a celebration of Coach Gillespie’s life at 12:00 p.m. in the University of St. Francis Sullivan Center.

For complete arrangements visit: 1340 AM WJOL

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