Helen T. Gillis, 87: Active community volunteer, former forklift driver

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Helen Theresa (McCue) Gillis, 87, died June 9 at Gosnell Memorial Hospice House following a brief illness.  

Born Oct. 19, 1923, in Portland, she was the youngest daughter of John B. and Helen A. McCue.  The family lived on Munjoy Hill, and she attended Cathedral Grammar School, graduating from Cathedral High School in 1941.

After high school, she worked at the South Portland Shipyard, where she drove a forklift and loaded munitions on ships during World War II.

On June 25, 1945, she married Edward F. Gillis at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. They lived in Portland until 1952 when they moved to South Portland, where she was a homemaker and active parent of four sons.

After her boys were older, she entered the real estate business with her husband, eventually taking over the management of several Portland apartment buildings.

She was a 50-year member of Beta Sigma Phi, a women’s service organization, which served as a source of great enjoyment and lifelong friendships for her.  

She was a long-time parishioner of Holy Cross Church and dedicated volunteer at the Maine Medical Center.  

Over the years, she enjoyed traveling, shopping on Congress Street and later at the Maine Mall, where her nearly daily trips were more about the people she met up with; she seldom came home with purchases.

When her granddaughters entered Catherine McAuley High School, she gladly attended many McAuley events, including nearly every basketball game over the past six years. Three weeks ago, she was an honored alumna at her granddaughter’s graduation ceremony.

Unable to drive these last two years, her niece, Jerralyn Cadigan and friend, Allison Skillings, were her willing drivers, enabling her to continue living in her beloved home until the end.

She was predeceased by her husband, Eddie, in 2000, a son, Mark T., in 2003, and sister, Mary E. McCue, in 2010.  

Survivors include her sister, Jane Flint of Yarmouth; three sons, Ed of Key West, Fla., Michael and his wife Karen of San Diego, and Peter and wife Susan of Cape Elizabeth; two granddaughters, Helen M. and Nona E. Gillis of Cape Elizabeth; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

Memorial services were held Monday, June 13.

Arrangements are by Conroy-Tully Crawford South Portland Chapel, 1024 Broadway, South Portland.

Memorial donations may be made to Catherine McAuley High School, 631 Stevens Ave., Portland, ME 04103 or Gosnell Memorial Hospice House, Hospice of Southern Maine, 180 U.S. Route 1, Suite 1, Scarborough, ME 04074.

Online condolences may be expressed at ctcrawford.com.

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