Paul Douglas “Pete” Gillespie, Jr.
Paul Douglas “Pete” Gillespie, Jr., a long-time Santa Barbara-area resident, died on June 19 at his home in Placerville, CA. Pete was born on June 24, 1934 in Troy, NY and grew up in the boarding house his parents ran. During the war, he and his elementary school buddies protected the homefront as best they could by dutifully watching for German U-boats in neighboring Long Island Sound. After the war, the family moved to Santa Barbara, where Pete played center for the Santa Barbara High School basketball team. He graduated from M.I.T. in 1960.
After college, Pete joined the Navy where he flew A-4 fighter jets and later served as Executive Officer of the USS Tawasa. He returned to California to get his PhD in Chemistry from the University of Southern California in 1971 and then moved to Europe to work as a chemist, living in Paris and Munich.
While in Germany, he met and married his wife Agi, and adopted her two young children, Anke and Dirk. The family moved to Solvang in 1982, and Pete spent 18 years as a chemistry teacher at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara, where “Dr. G” was a devoted mentor and educator. In his spare time, he rebuilt a Triumph TR3, a British roadster he had when he was young, from the ground up.
After his retirement, Pete and Agi moved to southern Utah to enjoy the beauty of its red rock desert. In classic Pete style, he built their house with his own hands and, for good measure, a pottery studio for Agi. When not taking hours-long hikes in the canyonlands, Pete worked as a consulting chemist. But, eventually, they missed California and moved to Placerville, where Pete continued to take hiking and fishing forays to the Yosemite area by himself, even at age 80. He also gardened and worked to train graders for California’s teacher qualifying exams until three months before his death five days short of his 81st birthday.
Pete led an active and diverse life, and enjoyed sailing, diving, and time on the water. He was an avid lifelong fisherman, a builder who loved to work with his hands, and a gentle soul who gave a loving home to many cats and had a special connection with each of them, especially the shy ones.
Pete’s fight with cancer was only two months long, but he confronted it in the sprit of his beloved USC Trojans’ motto: Fight on! To help him fight on for his favorite causes, in lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah (www.bestfriends.org), or the Wounded Warrior Project (www.woundedwarriorproject.org).
Pete is survived by his wife and two children and many good friends. A memorial service will be held on 15 August 2015 at his home in Placerville.