In Memory of Gary Gillespie

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of former Oregon AFSCME President Gary Gillespie who died of health complications on August 27th.  Gary was a devoted brother, uncle, workers' rights advocate, board member, music lover, Cincinnati fan, community activist and friend to many!  He will be missed!

Gary Lamont Gillespie was born in Savannah, GA on December 13th, 1951 to Woodrow and Goldie Gillespie. His sister, Donna, was born in 1954 and soon after their family moved to Norwood, Ohio outside of Gary's beloved Cincinnati. Growing up, Gary went to many Reds games with his dad, loved Vada Pinson and was a pitcher in little league (with a proud no-hitter).  In high school, Gary was a four-year track/cross country runner, basketball player, honor society member, writer for the school newspaper, poetry editor and was in the Senior Class Play.  While Gary was at the University of Cincinnati he started his lifelong passion for politics, community activism and rights advocacy which he continued after he moved to Eugene.

In the early 80's Gary began working with students with disabilities at Lane ESD, and received the Lane County Direct Care Provider of Year Award in 1984.  Gary became the General Manager of McKenzie Personnel Systems, a new supported employment agency for individuals with disabilities.  When Gary was a Behavioral Specialist with Lane ESD, he became active with the union.  Later in the 90’s when he became an employee of the City of Eugene, he became more involved with workers' advocacy through AFSCME, becoming the president of Local 1724 for 9 years.  From 2001-2013, Gary served as the Oregon AFSCME Council President.  AFSCME noted that, "During his tenure, Gillespie pushed to expand...membership growth and membership engagement.  We are a stronger union because of his dedication and service."  Those who worked with him said that Gary was always trusted by both sides during bargaining to seek out a fair solution.

After Gary retired from his AFSCME leadership position, he was appointed by Governor Kate Brown as a Lane Transit District Board Member and became their Vice President, always working toward expanding public transit for all.  He was also an active Board member and VP of Alternative Work Concepts, a supported employment agency for individuals with multiple disabilities.  Gary has always been involved in political activism working on many campaigns for candidates and initiatives. He was also proud of the labor work he did in Mexico, and for running in four marathons.  Gary has always been known for his quick wit, great sense of humor, love of music, community engagement and passion for advocating for community members and workers’ rights.  

Gary is survived by his sister, Donna Gillespie McAnnally and her husband Essel; his nephews Chris and Andy Constable; his niece Cammy Cox & her husband Jason; his great nieces Avery and Gracie Cox, and great nephew Roman Constable.  Gary was always grateful to have his family and so many friends, and we were blessed to have him working tirelessly for our community. 

Join us for Gary’s celebration of life on Saturday, October 29th at the Eugene Public Library from 3:30-5:00 pm Pacific time.  Share any fun photos of Gary on his Facebook pages or bring them to the memorial.  The celebration will also be interactive via Zoom. Email Jacque for the link to join at [email protected]. Donations for expenses can be made at