Bill Gillis 1930 - 2015
Inducted 2001 - Baseball, Hockey
Bill Gillis was born in Balcarres, SK and came to Gray when he was two weeks old. He has been in Gray ever since! From the time Fred Van de Kamp taught him how to skate in the old Gray rink, Bill has been a part of Gray’s sports history. Starting school at five years of age, Bill soon excelled at many sports. Although becoming very competitive at hockey even to the point of being invited by Bert Crooks of the Regina Aces to play in the city, Bill’s true love was baseball. He began playing senior ball with the Gray Sox in 1947 – 16 years old. On July 1st of that year he broke his leg…the following year he learned how to slide properly. Bill has just one regret from his baseball career. While writing his grade 12 exams he actually missed a ball game to stay home to study. As it turned out he failed the exam anyways and dearly wished he had just gone to the game.
In 1947, Bill, along with Norton Frei and Peter Boesch attended a Brooklyn Dodgers three-day tryout camp in Regina. The event was held at Park DeYoung, now Taylor Field. The elimination process was rigorous as 175 young men played for and learned from the Dodger scouts. Bill made it to the second team on the last day. It was a memorable experience for him.
Baseball was so much a part of his growing up. Bill recalls in 1949 playing 30 games in July alone. He remembers the quality of the baseball and how competitive Gray teams were. A highlight for Bill was once having the opportunity to pitch to his dad K.C. when he was subbing in at catcher (at age 41)! Although he usually played for Gray there was one occasion where he helped out Doc Hughes and his Red Sox baseball team. During a three-game tournament he met an American player from the Indian Head Rockets who sparked the adventure in him. He was told that if you could play winter ball in Cuba you could get scouted. All Bill had to do was get to New York where his new friend lived. Unfortunately, the dream fell apart with the rise of new Cuban leader, Fidel Castro.
Baseball continued to impact Bill’s life even after he met Bebe. Getting married during baseball season was out of the question so the wedding had to be in October. Bebe remembers missing the hot summer weekends at the lake, replaced instead by one Sports Day after another and finally getting to the lake at the end of the season when the leaves were beginning to fall.
Bill continued to play ball, hockey and curl for many years but also developed into a very well-respected coach. He has been, and continues to be a role model for young athletes. He took an active role in the Sioux Line Hockey League serving as President. He also refereed for 10 years in the league. His boys (Doug, Ken and Rick) accused him of using the “Noah’s Ark” approach to officiating. No matter who started it, both were at fault and so off to the penalty box they would go “two by two”.
As a volunteer Bill has always played a major role in organizing sporting events in Gray; be it Sports Days, hockey tournaments or bonspiels. He was very active in building the rink in 1975 and served as secretary on the Rink Building Committee.
Gray has a proud tradition of competing and winning and Bill Gillis has sustained and nurtured that tradition through his commitment, dedication and love of sport. He is a part of what makes Gray such a wonderful place to live and grow up in and as Bill tells his boys “Don’t ever forget where you come from!”