Nov 16th 1945 - Mar 11th 2010
One never needed to be around Terry Gillette for too long to discover that he was so easy to like. He was easy-going and funny, always ready with a joke. Terry was usually active but when he was at home, you could often find him with the television turned to a sports channel as he was a sports enthusiast through and through. Terry was a believer in doing something right the first time and was equally passionate about helping others reach their full potential. He was devoted to his family and even as his health declined, his focus remained on others. Terry made a significant impact on the lives of countless people around him – a reflection of a life well lived.
The year 1945 was a year for celebration around the world as it was on September 2nd of that year that WWII officially ended, and courageous servicemen were eagerly streaming back home to resume the lives they left behind. This was a joyous time in the family of Laurence and Mable (Trygstad) Gillette for a much different reason since they were pleased to announce the birth of their son, Terry, on November 16th of that year. Terry was born in Muskegon, Michigan, as the oldest of four children in his family including siblings Tom, Jill, and Lori. His father worked at Continental Motors while his mother worked as a secretary for the Muskegon Intermediate School District. Terry was raised in the family home in Holton where he developed an early love for sports. He participated in all sports and was a bit of a natural since he was always quite tall. Terry attended local schools and graduated from Holton High School in 1963.
With his high school career behind him, Terry went on to Muskegon Community College before transferring to Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota. His life would never be the same after spotting a young girl on the big steps inside Old Main on the first day of classes one fall. Her name was Marilyn and it was love at first sight for them both. Terry was one year ahead of her in school, but his education and their relationship were interrupted when he was drafted into the Army in 1967. He was deployed to Korea for 18 months and was excited to return home after his duty was fulfilled. Terry and Marilyn resumed their relationship and were married on August 23, 1969, at Cross Of Glory Lutheran Church in Hartland, Minnesota. The newlyweds took in a Twins game and then went to Duluth for a few days.
As a new husband, Terry continued to pursue his education. They moved to Big Rapids, Michigan, where he attended Ferris College and then on to Whitehall where Terry worked at various jobs. They later moved to Kalamazoo when he was accepted into Western Michigan University to finish his bachelor’s in education and physical education, graduating in 1974. Shortly thereafter, Terry began teaching at Barbour Hall Academy for a few years until it closed. He then taught at Valley Center for emotionally impaired children for a short time. Terry also umpired for the cities of Kalamazoo and Portage and was a pitcher on a fast pitch softball team himself. He eventually began teaching physical education classes and a few other classes as well at the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home where he remained until he retired when he was 60.
Throughout his life, sports were an important part of who Terry was. For 20 years he was the assistant football coach at Gull Lake High School. In 1995, Terry became the assistant coach for the women’s basketball at Kalamazoo Community College, helping lead them to several national tournaments. He participated in several sports, too, including both couples and men’s golf leagues. During his later years, he played slow pitch softball on up to four teams at once after he retired! Terry loved watching sports of all kinds including the Lions, Tigers, and Pistons. He was thrilled to attend the NCAA Women’s Final Four games and also traveled to play in some senior national softball tournaments at times.
Family was another important cornerstone in Terry’s life. He and Marilyn were blessed to become parents to their son, Matthew. Although Terry was a skilled coach, he never wanted to coach his son because he would rather be able to watch him play. He also treasured the companionship of his dogs, Walker and Brewster.
As far as other interests go, Terry had a few of those, too. He loved traveling with Marilyn and their destinations included road trips to Minnesota to visit family or short trips with friends, and they even made it to Hawaii on two separate occasions. They also traveled to many different sports parks in order to satiate his love for all things sports. Terry was an avid reader, mainly of thrillers, suspense, and of course books about sports. When Kmart was closing, Terry went and took many of their titles off their hands. He believed that almost anything could be fixed with duct tape and although not always done right, it almost always got the job done.
There were so many things that made Terry extraordinary. He was a real meat and potatoes sort of guy who enjoyed eating out, usually at Zeb’s Trading Company. He enjoyed a good diet Pepsi and as far as Terry was concerned, there was nothing better than a cold Bud Light. He had a great sense of humor and loved telling jokes. In fact, Terry studied jokes, although most of his were awful. He loved life and lived to have fun, never letting life get the best of him. Even as he was battling against colon cancer, he never complained and remained a true fighter until the end.
Known as Coach G to his team and dad to his son, Terry Gillette was a remarkable man who lived a remarkable life. He was a sports enthusiast who could never turn down a piece of key lime pie, but most of all he was a kind man who genuinely cared for others. Terry had tremendous strength and never complained, and he never wanted others to worry about him either. He leaves behind lessons in integrity, perseverance, and compassion that will be forever treasured by those he leaves behind. He will be dearly missed.
Terry R. Gillette died March 11, 2010 in Kalamazoo. Terry’s family includes his wife, Marilyn; son, Matthew (Nikki Dykstra) Gillette; 3 siblings, Tom (Phyllis) Gillette, Jill Gillette, and Lori (Tom) Posthumus; a niece; 3 nephews; special aunt, Marge Sevigny; and many aunts, uncles, and cousins. Terry was preceded in death by his parents. Learn more about Terry and share in some refreshments with his family and friends on Sunday from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes – Kalamazoo, MI; 6080 Stadium Drive, 375-2900 Services will be held Monday 4:00 p.m. at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, with viewing 1 hour prior. A reception will follow in the church hall. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a memory or photo, sign his guestbook, or make a memorial donation to West Michigan Cancer Center or to KVCC Women’s Basketball C/O The KVCC Foundation.