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Shelter Island Reporter obituary: Bernard M. Gillespie

Bernard (Bernie) Gillespie of Longboat Key, Florida and Shelter Island, died on May 23, 2019.

Bernard M. Gillespie

Bernie was born to Bernard and Clara Yeich Gillespie on June 17, 1937 in Centralia, Pennsylvania and raised in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. He attended the University of Notre Dame on a Navy ROTC Scholarship, majored in Chemical Engineering and graduated Magna cum Laude in 1959.

Following graduation, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U. S. Marine Corps.

In 1961, he married the love of his life, Phyllis Mack, of Flushing, New York and Shelter Island. After finishing his Marine Corps tour, Bernie and Phyllis returned to Notre Dame where Bernie would obtain a PhD.

He joined the Mobil Oil Corporation in 1966 after completing his doctorate. The highlight of his Mobil career was as president of Mobil Solar Energy Corporation for almost 10 years, dedicated to the research, development, manufacture and project deployment and support in photovoltaics — electricity from sunlight. His family remembers that Bernie often said it was almost criminal that they paid him for having such a wonderful job.

His professional accomplishments include six U.S. patents and seven publications in peer-reviewed journals. In addition to numerous invited addresses and presentations and leadership positions in professional societies and on professional and community panels, Bernie prided himself on his mentoring of numerous young professionals.

He retired from Mobil in 1995, and joined Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia as a professor of engineering and director of the Technology Management Master’s Degree Program.

Bernie was very proud of his affiliation with Marshall, which prided itself on the high number of its students who, like him, were the first in their families to receive a college degree.

In 2001, Phyllis and Bernie completed a summer home on their property on Westmoreland Drive.

Bernie retired from Marshall in 2006, and he and Phyllis took up full-time residence on the Island and kept busy with volunteer work and hobbies.

In 2008, an extensive addition to the Westmoreland home turned it from a summer home to a year-round residence, with attached garage and additional bedrooms and baths. Annual visits from their family filled the expanded house on a regular basis.

Phyllis and Bernie volunteered with the Senior Nutrition Program, delivering Meals on Wheels; the Shelter Island Historical Society; Our Lady of the Isle Church; as well as many ad hoc requests for their talents. Hosting players from the Shelter Island Bucks baseball team, biennial reunions of Phyllis’ college classmates and Bernie’s high school classmates as well as get-togethers of Phyllis’ extended family and the occasional family wedding, kept boredom at bay, his family said.

After renting for several winters in Longboat Key, Bernie and Phyllis purchased a condo and became Florida residents. Bernie startled writing his memoirs. He loved Longboat Key and was active in the men’s club and visiting with their many friends in the area.

He continued his do-it-yourself activities around the house and grounds and supported Phyllis’s hobby of cooking and entertaining. He also took up art in his 70s — a relaxing outlet that grew from a series of lessons by Peter Waldner.

Bernie was most proud of his family, his wife of 58 years, Phyllis; daughter Ellen Cathcart (James); sons Michael (Patti); John (Sandy); Stephen (Karen); Paul (Michelle); as well as 10 grandchildren and current resident pet Wilbur, all of whom survive him. He was predeceased by his two older brothers, Jim and Ray, and is survived by his younger brother, Bill, and his sister, Agnes Purcell (Ed) as well as numerous nephews and nieces

In lieu of flowers, Bernie asked that people make a memorial contribution to either the Class of 1955 Scholarship fund at Nativity BVM High School, 1 Lawton’s Hill, Pottsville, PA 17901, or to the Shelter Island Historical Society, P.O. Box 847, Shelter Island, NY 11964, or to a charity of your choice.

Funeral arrangement are: visitation at the Shelter Island Funeral Home Tuesday, May 28, 2019 from 4 to 7 p.m. and Funeral Mass at Our Lady of the Isle Church Wednesday, May 29 at 10:30 a.m. Burial will follow at Our Lady of the Isle Cemetery.

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