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1935 - 2017

Samuel Gillis, M.D. (S ’65)

Samuel Peters Gillis, 82, passed away Monday at his home in Birmingham after a hard-fought battle with cancer. Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, Sam was schooled there and later in Gainesville, Florida before moving to Blue Mountain, Mississippi in 1947 with his family. He attended New Albany High School, playing quarterback for three years from 1950 – 1952. After graduating in 1953, Sam became an outstanding student at Mississippi State University, where he and fellow students used to ride motorcycles down the wide halls of Old Main before it burned down. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1957, he earned his medical degree at Tennessee Medical School. Following his residency in Kingsport, Tennessee, he joined the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Gillis served as a U.S. Army medical doctor in South Vietnam in 1965. Following a short duty at Fort Dix, New Jersey, he set up his Birmingham medical practice. He was affiliated with St. Vincent’s Birmingham. Dr. Gillis was a very busy retiree. He donated his time and talents on numerous trips to the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana, with Doctors Without Borders. He repaired cleft palates, which were common in the area, and performed emergency C-sections and other life-saving surgeries. Always active, Dr. Gillis became both an amazing ballroom dancer beginning at age 60 and also a marathon runner. In 2010, he set an Alabama state record for runners aged 75+ at the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, which was unsurpassed for five years. He exhibited an exemplary work ethic in everything he attempted and earned the respect of countless admirers. One of his favorite pastimes was attending Mississippi State football games with his brother Joe, after which they either toasted the victories or drowned their sorrows with a margarita. He lived his credo “Run and Dance, Love and Live, Keep Smiling,” to the fullest. Dr. Gillis was preceded in death by parents Malcolm Elisha Gillis, Sr. and Rose Peters Gillis of Blue Mountain and brother Malcolm Elisha Gillis, Jr. of Toney. Survivors include his wife Sandra Thompson Smith Gillis, former wife Mary Sandlin Phyfer Gillis, son Benjamin Knox Gillis and son Daniel Paul Gillis and wife Amma, all of Birmingham; brother Joseph Murray Gillis of Adamsville, Tennessee; step-daughter Amy Thompson Holditch and husband Stanley of Birmingham; grandchildren Amy Katherine Gillis, Benjamin Knox Gillis, Jr., Katherine Claye Gillis, Daniel Luke Gillis and George Peyton Gillis and Duncan Holditch, all of Birmingham; nephews Robert Malcolm Gillis of Owens Cross Roads, Peter Ludwig Johann Gillis of Eatonton, Georgia and Malcolm Elisha Gillis of Rutledge, Georgia; nieces Suzy Gillis Stephens of Hampton Cove and Lydia Ruth Gillis of Oviedo, Florida; extended family and friends; and his two well-loved Shih Tzu’s, Josephine Baker and Louis Armstrong. A memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at Ridout’s Valley Chapel,1800 Oxmoor Road, Homewood.

Published in The Birmingham News on July 14, 2017

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