After 84 years, my grandfather Gordon Eugene Gillihan, passed away from a severe stroke. Raising 3 generations of children gave him a lifetime of joy and sadness. Coming from
Irish linage, Gordon had a very traditional image in this regard. Being a child during World War
2, his mother Dorothy Nyhouse made the wise choice to bring her children to Seattle from
Indiana. Never a dull moment with my grandfather, he often poured all his energy into our family and friends.
“Black Beard”, as my grandfather’s close friends dubbed him while out on hunting expeditions, gained great fame in his younger years for his Irish outlook on life. Eat, drink and be merry. A monster of a man, Gordon was 6ft tall and had arms the size of bowling ball pins.
You'd think that his Santa Claus look, would be cause for pause, but surprisingly he resisted the allure to ever put on a Santa Claus outfit. He may have had this jolly Saint Nick veneer, yet he was anything but. Years in Walla Walla Penitentiary when he was in his earlier 20’s gave him a body builders look, in which he retained throughout life in some degree or another.
Early on in Gordon’s young life, his mother Dorothy Nyhouse relocated from Evansville,
Indiana to Seattle, Washington. Taking with her everything she could put on a truck and her 3 children, Dorothy moved as a widow. This bold move to come to Washington State was spurred on by Boeing’s hiring practices during World War 2. His mother found herself gainfully employed at Boeing soon after their move as a riveter for war planes. In those times, Gordon could often be found skipping school to go fishing or hunting instead. This life of freedom lead to some serious poor choices by his brother and him. A trip to prison was exactly what my grandfather needed to sort out his wily behaviors at the time.
Much of what I know about my grandfather’s past was either told to me by his own mother, my great grandmother Dorothy or told to me by my Aunt’s. Raised by my grandparents, which was unusual at the time, gave me a deep respect for my grandfather Gordon and grandmother Beverly. His and her sole focus was on how to better the stability of the family as a whole and what was best left after they were gone. The fond memories of hunting and fishing myself, gave life meaning. Surrounded by my Aunts and Uncles everyday made my brother and I feel like we were part of something greater. My grandfather was the Patriarch of our family and we all looked to him for guidance and advice. Gordon’s extremely charismatic and loving nature in his golden years, lead to a strengthening of our family after my mother was killed by a drunk driver and my younger brother committed suicide.
Gordon Eugene Gillihan was a hilarious and loving man. Always smiling, laughing, and eating, Gordon left a legacy of warmth and a huge void to full. He loved his life, his grandchildren and his wife above all else. After 50 years of marriage, my grandmother Beverley died in his arms. Gordon was completely lost after her passing and within 4 years, passed himself. My grandfather was a King among men and gave me an upbringing that most boys could only wish for. The blueprint he left me on how to be a great man is time tested in his life and someday, with much work, I might be able to fill his shoes.
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