The Times West Virginian

April 27, 2014

Thornton Gillis


Times West Virginian

—  Allen “Gil” Gillis, 73, passed away peacefully Wednesday (March 26, 2014) at 9:05 p.m. PST with his devoted wife Gloria by his side.

Thornton was born July 8, 1940, in Diana, Webster County, son of Okey Homer Gillis and Pearl Lela Armentrout Gillis.

Following his graduation from Rivesville High School Class of 1959, Thornton enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He was assigned to 79th Tactical Fighter Sq. on an F100 Super Sabre Jet Fighter Bomber, based in Europe-England, and assigned to NATO (United Nations) activities in the Mideast and the Belgian Congo in Central Africa during that revolution. He was also on temporary duty in Tripoli, at Wheelus Air Base in Libya.

He was discharged Sept. 30, 1965, after serving his country for six years.

After his discharge, he worked as a coal miner for Eastern Associates at Grant Town, while attending Fairmont State College, and was then employed by the Civil Service, Department of Defense for several years.

He coached Pop Warner football while living in Rivesville.

One day he packed up his family and headed for a job in the state of Washington to work for Boeing Aircraft. He decided to take the southern route to visit his brother Raymond, who was still in the U.S. Air Force and stationed at Lackland Air Base in Amarillo, Texas. He took a job as a mechanic on jet aircraft at the base and stayed in Amarillo.

Later he joined Champion Spark Plug Corp. and was employed in executive sales as territorial manager for 10 years. After leaving Champion, Thornton worked in computer sales for Electronic Data Systems of Texas, a company owned by Ross Perot.

It was in 1989 that he started a credit card business, First National Bankcard Services, by working out of his home in Simi Valley, Calif., with a fold-up card table as his desk. This humble beginning grew to provide data processing for thousands of merchants nationwide. He was known as the Credit Card King.

He was of Cherokee-Delaware descent and was a member of the West Virginia Native American Coalition.

He was very generous in providing college scholarships to high school seniors living in the Rivesville area. He also provided financial help to Rivesville Middle School students who were in need of school supplies and clothing. He was kind and generous in his willingness to share in the restoration of the old Rivesville Grade School building. He was always ready to help wherever there was a need.

Thornton loved to race cars. He drove a Ford Pinto in NASCAR’s Mini Stock Race at Irwindale Speedway, Irwindale, Calif., as a team member with his close friend Lee Ladd.

In October 2003 he was the 2003 world speed record holder (147.805) in “The Extreme Freedom Special,” a G/GMR Toyota powered modified roadster at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. In 2008 he held the world land speed record (204.066) at El Mirage Dry Lake Bed, Calif., in the same car with a different engine.

He was an avid golfer, and was also happy wearing his black cowboy hat, blue jeans and cowboy boots astride his horse “Sonny D-Bar” on the trails of his ranch in northern Nevada at Elko. He lived life to the fullest and will be missed by his family and friends.

In addition to his parents, Thornton was preceded in death by a brother, Raymond Walter Gillis.

He is survived by his wife, Gloria Blackwell Gillis of Orange, Calif.; and his sister, Irene Opal Gillis-Haldeman (Hus-Joe) of Morgantown. Also surviving are his son, Joseph Edward Gillis (wife, Amanda), and son, Jubel Raymond Gillis (wife, Jessica); daughter, Tracy Anita Gillis-Woods (husband, Steve); and their mother, Joan Catherine Lane of Texas; and grandchildren, Rebecca Jo Gillis (Hus-Shane), daughter of Joseph, Lyle Allen Gillis (wife, Keli), son of Jubel, Tristan Reece Gillis, daughter of Jubel, and Carson Greig Gillis, son of Jubel. Great-grandchildren are Emma Grace Harmon, Jillian Faith Harmon and Sam John Harmon, children of Rebecca, and Hasten Raymond Gillis, son of Lyle.

His nieces and nephews surviving are Ernest Linn Morris (wife, Joslyn), Donald Wayne Morris (wife, Linda), Renee Adams and Kyle Gillis (wife, Jean).

A Celebration of Life will be held from 3-6 p.m. Wednesday, April 30, at the United Methodist Church Annex on Jasper Street in Rivesville.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the United Methodist Church, Jasper Street, Rivesville, WV 26588.