John M. Gilles, age 95, died Sunday, April 21, 2013, in Mankato. Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 AM, Thursday, April 25, at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. Visitation is 5:00-8:00 PM, Wednesday, April 24, at Woodland Hills Funeral Home and will continue for one hour prior to the service at the church. Interment will be in Woodland Hills Memorial Park.
John was born in Laurel, Montana, on May 11, 1917, to Francis and Ann (Maloney) Gilles. The oldest of 10 children, John was raised on the family farm in Lena, Wisconsin. He graduated from Lena High School in 1935.
John entered the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941 and was granted an honorable discharge five years later. During his time in the military he served six months on the Japanese island of Okinawa. After his discharge from the military, John began his career with the U.S. Postal Service in Chicago. During his time with the postal service, John also worked on the highway post office and in post offices in Minneapolis and Mankato. He retired from the Mankato post office in 1980. John served as president of the Mankato branch of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) during the 1970's.
John was married to May (Frolek) Gilles in 1961 in Minneapolis. They had one daughter, Jane. The family moved to Mankato in 1967.
An active member of St. John's Catholic Church, John served as an usher and was a member of the Mankato Knights of Columbus. For many years, John and May volunteered to drive parishioners with special needs to mass. At the request of the parish priest, John served as host father to two immigrants during the 1970's, one a refugee from Vietnam, and the other a Mankato State student from Lebanon.
After his retirement, John continued his ethic of service. He and May delivered Meals on Wheels for 22 years, from 1981 to 2003. John was a volunteer tax preparer at Summit Senior Center, was an active leader in both the Mankato chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees (NARFE), where he served as president, and the South Central Senior Federation, where he served as treasurer. During his years at Realife Cooperative, John served as treasurer of the Realife board of directors for seven years.
John will be remembered for his quiet, gentle nature, his eagerness to help others, and his great love of family and friends. John is survived by his daughter Jane of Lino Lakes; brothers Merne of Oconto Falls, WI; Mark (June) of Sanford, NC; Dick (Dolly) of Lena, WI; Leo (Rosalyn) of Oconto, WI; sister Agnes, of Oconto Falls, WI; many nieces, nephews, and friends. He was preceded in death by his wife May, his parents, his step-mother Susan, brothers Francis, Joe, and Bob, and sister Mary.
John and May were strong supporters of many charities and causes. They established nursing scholarships at both Minnesota State University-Mankato and South Central College. Memorials are preferred to the John and May Gilles School of Nursing Scholarship at Minnesota State University-Mankato, the John and May Gilles Nursing Scholarship at South Central College, or the American Red Cross.