John “Big John” Gillis passed away Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, at his home in Broad Ripple.
He was born Sept. 24, 1947, in San Antonio, Texas, where his parents owned a riding stable. Around the age of 2, he moved with his family to Cheyenne, Wyo., where his father was stationed with the United States Air Force. Another military move took the family to Japan for two years and left John with incredible memories. Upon his father’s retirement from the military, the family returned to their origins in Howe, Ind.
At age 16, John got his first job at a radio station, first sweeping floors and then broadcasting news from the high school he attended in LaGrange. He could see the flashing lights on the station’s radio tower from his bedroom window, and knew that he wanted to be in broadcasting for the rest of his life. After high school, he attended Indiana University, where he became involved in a student radio station in the basement of his dormitory, known today as WIUX. At age 20, he left campus life for the real world and WIBC, the powerhouse of Indianapolis Radio. There he remained for the next 40 years.
John loved camping with his family, which included four dogs, first in a tent and then in his beloved RV, Ollie. Although they had traveled to 48 states, his favorite place to camp was in Indiana state parks.
He had a bottomless passion for people and the community organizations that served their needs. His home office walls were lined with awards and honors for his dedication to the ordinary man.
John is survived by his wife, Sherry, whom he met at a fundraiser; stepson, Hew Simons and wife Jan; two grandchildren, Kyle and Kayln of Brownsburg; sister, Sally McGuire and husband Devin of Bloomington; and two nephews, Josh and Joey Richards, and their families. He will be missed by countless friends, neighbors and fans.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, at Flanner and Buchanan – Broad Ripple, with a gathering from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and immediately following the service.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Indiana University Foundation, where the family will designate the funds to support telecommunication students and facilities at Indiana University.
Online condolences may be made at www.flannerbuchanan.com.