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Richard J. Gilles, 85, of La Crosse passed away at Benedictine Living Community in La Crosse. He was born in 1934 in La Crosse, to William and Elizabeth (Spika) Gilles.
Growing up Dick loved being a paperboy for the Tribune, being a pin setter at Holy Trinity’s Leo Hall 2 lane bowling alley, and playing football with the neighborhood kids at “Crazy Legs Stadium” (aka the field behind the South Branch Library). After graduating from Holy Trinity grade school, Dick graduated from Aquinas High School and attended UW-Madison. He served active duty in the Navy as a machinist mate. He was a member of the first crew to man the destroyer U.S.S. Mullinnix making him a Plank Owner.
When Dick returned from the active duty, he started a tool and die shop with a friend and eventually left the business and moved to Machine Products where he spent his time in operations, plant management and engineering. He finished his working career and retired from Trane Company.
In 1961, Dick wed the love of his life Beatrice Biesen and started their family. Dick loved and supported his family and the community. He was an active member of Saint Pius X parish and spent time and energy working to improve the school. He was the PTO president, athletic director, and one of its biggest promoters. He spent many seasons as the president of the independent football league for local grade schools to play organized football. He was an active member of the Aquinas PTO and he spent many week nights calling Bingo at Aquinas High School. He was a long time member of the Knights of Columbus. From Chicken Q’s to State Bowling tournaments and everything between, Dick was a tireless volunteer and leader. In the outdoors, he loved gardening, fishing and attending sporting and extracurricular events of his children and grandchildren. He loved to play cards, socialize with friends and coworkers, and was willing to help anyone in need.
Richard is preceded in death by his parents, his wife of 58 years Beatrice, his brothers Howard, John, and William and his nephew Brian. He is survived by his children Stephen (Stephanie), Cheryl (Bryan) Van Riper, and Bill (Heather), and grandchildren Greg, Geoff, Gerry, Katie, Anna, Sean, and Elin. Also survived by his sister-in-law Gloria, and nieces Rita and Mary, Nephews Mark and Jerry; Nieces Kim, Barb, Jeanne, Elizabeth.
A private funeral Mass will be held at 1:00 PM Saturday, May 9, 2020, in Mary, Mother of the Church Parish at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in La Crosse. Rev. Brian D. Konopa will officiate. Due to the current Corona Virus restrictions, friends and relatives are encouraged to watch the live stream of the service available at www.mmoclacrosse.org and use the YouTube link. The Blaschke & Schneider funeral homes are assisting the family with arrangements.
Please direct all memorials to Aquinas Catholic Schools or Freedom Honor Flight at www.freedomhonorflight.org.
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