Donald Gillen

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Donald I. Gillen, 94, of Belleville, IL, born April 14, 1927, in Lincoln, NE, died Sunday, May 16, 2021, at St. Paul Senior Community, Belleville, IL.

He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Marilyn; a son, Dr. Daniel P. Gillen of Belleville, IL; four grandchildren, Kelly Gillen of Las Vegas, NV, Kyle Gillen of Chicago, IL, Sean Gillen and Aidan Gillen of Belleville, IL; nieces; and nephews.

Mr. Gillen was preceded in death by his parents, Frank R. and Tillie R., nee Sharton, Gillen; a brother, Richard F. Gillen; and a sister, Dorothy J. Gillen Wright.

Donald attended school in Lincoln, NE, and graduated from Lincoln High School in 1945. He was sworn into the Army of the United States on July 26, 1945, and completed basic training at Camp Robinson, AR, just outside of Little Rock. He attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA, and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant on May 29, 1946.

After serving as a training officer for three months at Fort McClellan, AL, he was sent to Camp Kilmer, NJ, and temporarily assigned to the Philippine-Ryuku Command, and was transported by ship to Yokohama, Japan, for final assignment.

He was flown from Tokyo to Manila in the Philippines where he was assigned to the 12th (Philippine Scout) Division which was undergoing training at that time at Camp O’Donnell, about 60 miles north of Manila. His ultimate assignment was as company commander of K Company, 3rd battalion, 57th Infantry Regiment. The 12th division was training to enforce the Philippine Constabulary which was at that time occupied in fighting the Hukbalahaps, a rebel force of Communist-inspired Filipino insurgents fighting the government.

Returning to the United States and Nebraska in mid-summer, 1947, he enrolled in the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with a goal of a bachelor’s degree in journalism. It was there he met his bride-to-be, Marilyn LaRae Petersen. They were married September 23, 1950, and both graduated from the University of Nebraska in June of 1951.

After a brief stint as a reporter for The Lincoln Star in Lincoln, he became news editor of The York Republican, a weekly newspaper in York, NE. He eventually became news editor of the York daily paper, The York News-Times, and was later named publisher. He retired from the York newspaper in 1989.

He and his wife moved to the Belleville area in 1994 to be near their son and grandchildren.

Donald was an avid golfer and often had his wife as partner during his efforts on the various courses in the Belleville area. He was a member of the Fairview Heights Rotary Club for several years but had to resign because of health conditions.

He was active in various activities at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Belleville until his health declined. In York, he was a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, as well as the Masonic Lodge. He was a past president of the York Chamber of Commerce, a past member of the City Council of York, past president of the Sertoma Club of York, past Exalted Ruler of the Elks lodge in York, and past commander of the American Legion Post 19 in York.

In his ninth decade of life, Don received two special honors. In October of 2017, he flew to Washington, DC with the Greater St. Louis Honor Flight to see our nations war memorials. During this trip he was escorted by his son, Dan. Later that same month, he traveled to Washington D.C. again where he received the Congressional Gold Medal at the U.S. Capitol for his service as a Filipino Scout in WWII.

Memorials may be made to St. George’s Episcopal Church, Belleville, IL. Condolences may be expressed to the family online at

Visitation:  Friends may visit from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 21, 2021, at George Renner & Sons Funeral Home, Belleville, IL, and from 12 noon to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 22, 2021, at St. George’s Episcopal Church, Belleville, IL.

Funeral: Funeral services with military honors will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 22, 2021, at St. George’s Episcopal Church, Belleville, IL, with Fr. Robert Eaton officiating.

Cremation services will follow with interment of cremains at St. Matthew’s Church Columbarium at a later date..


3 Comments on Donald Gillen

Kathy Baehr said : Guest Report Jun 30, 2021 at 1:05 PM

Oh my. I just learned of Don's passing. He was one of the very best friends I have had in my life. We shared the same "weird" sense of humor, and he was so intelligent. I learned a lot from him over the years. He will be dearly missed. Love to Marilyn and Dan.

  • Lubbock
  • TX
Diane Pierce said : Guest Report May 18, 2021 at 8:39 PM

So sorry for your loss, he was a fabulous person, great father-in-law and friend. He will be greatly missed!

  • Chesterfield
  • MO
Michael Reed said : Guest Report May 18, 2021 at 9:18 AM

A great sense of humor. A great mind. A great man. I will miss my Rotary friend.

  • Addieville
  • IL

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