Nov. 20, 1920 — Jan. 4, 2016
He was born Nov. 20, 1920, in Tooele, Utah, the youngest of three children to William Green and Emma Permelia (“Pearl”) Nelson Gillespie. His childhood and youth were spent in Tooele. He attended Tooele High School, where in 1937 he was quarterback of their state championship football team, which went on to play post-season games in Hawaii. He worked weekends at the Tooele Smelter to pay his way through two years of college at the University of Utah before serving an LDS mission in the Northern States Mission from 1939 to 1941. He had a beautiful tenor voice and sang in the Mormon Male Quartet. They joined heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey on a bond tour, sang religious and patriotic songs on the radio and at community and private events in the Illinois-Ohio-Michigan area.
After his mission, Joel attended dental school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, through the Navy V-12 program until the end of the war. He went on to become an orthodontist through the program at UC Berkeley (now UCSF). He set up his first orthodontic practice in Salt Lake City, where he met Barbara Ann Barnes in the waiting room of his dental office. They were married May 2, 1949, in the Salt Lake LDS Temple.
When the Korean War broke out, Joel was called up by the military and assigned to a research project with the Public Health Service in Washington, D.C. After the war, he had the opportunity to partner with one of his past professors, Bill Elsasser, in opening an orthodontic practice in San Francisco, California. This led eventually to practicing in Vallejo and Fairfield. His family moved with him to Richmond, California, then to Berkeley and in 1958, to their present home in Green Valley. He retired in 1980 to serve three years as Mission President of the North Carolina Raleigh Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, directing 150 young missionaries.
Joel and Barbara together raised four children, Herb, Tony, Craig and Kurt. They were both avid readers and together they were involved in the Great Books group they joined while living in Berkeley, which met monthly for 58 years, reading 11 books per year. Joel remained active in his Mormon faith throughout his life, serving in many church callings including missionary, member of the Napa Stake High Council, Bishop of the Fairfield Ward and Mission President.
Joel had the ability to relate well with youth. He was a gifted public speaker, was full of wisdom and wise counsel and had a big and generous heart – helping many people. He was a member of the Green Valley Country Club and enjoyed playing golf through his 80s. In his 90s, he still enjoyed taking friends and family there for lunch or dinner.
He is survived by sons, Herb (Carol) Gillespie of Roosevelt, Utah, Dr. Craig Gillespie and Kurt Gillespie of Fairfield, California; son-in-law, Stephan Peers of Lafayette, California; 13 grandchildren; 19 great-grandchildren (with one on the way).
He was preceded in death by his daughter, Tony Rae Gillespie Peers; his wife, Barbara Ann Barnes Gillespie; his parents; brother, Kenneth Gillespie; sister, Beth Gillespie Labelle.
Friends and family are invited to a memorial service at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Chapel, 101 Oakwood Drive, Fairfield, California. Visitation with the family will be held from 11:30 a.m. until the service. Lunch will follow the service, all in attendance are invited to stay to eat and reminisce.
Please express condolences at www.oakparkhillschapel.com.