William ‘Bill’ Gilles
William P. “Bill” Gilles, 53, of Onalaska, passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, June 5, 2021, while attending a Brewer’s game in Milwaukee with his family by his side.
Bill was born to Richard and Beatrice Gilles in La Crosse, WI in 1968. Bill attended St. Pius X Grade School and was a 1986 Aquinas High School graduate. Bill was proud to be a Blugold.
Growing up, Bill enjoyed playing all sports and he especially excelled at wrestling and football. He enjoyed playing in the Catholic Youth League and at Aquinas. In college, Bill was a three-year varsity-winning defensive end for the St. Norbert Green Knights. One year, as a Green Knight player, he was invited to try out with the Green Bay Packers practice squad.
Early on, Bill developed a unique affinity for television. Despite having black and white sets and limited cable channels, he found ways to immerse himself in all the programs he could find. He went so far as to stow away a small TV as the family prepared to leave on their annual summer vacation to northern Wisconsin, where TV’s were few and far between. He considered the remote control the best invention since sliced bread.
He graduated with a B.A. in Business from St. Norbert College in 1990 and worked in various stores in Milwaukee and La Crosse. Bill returned to school at Winona State University and earned a degree in Quality Engineering and Production Control in 1994. He shifted his career path and for the past 25 years held various engineering, quality, and program management positions at Peerless Chain, Benchmark Electronics, Trane Company, Ingersoll Rand and was starting a new job with LHI.
Bill met the love of his life, Heather, on a blind date in March of 2001. She answered his newspaper ad and left a message. He called her back and met at Ciatti’s Restaurant and had drinks and conversation until they closed the restaurant for the evening. In October of 2002, Bill asked Heather to marry him on the Fox River at St. Norbert College. Bill and Heather were married and enjoyed 17 wonderful years as an amazing team.
In 2004, Bill became a father to Sean William and instantly fell in love. He was truly amazing and enjoyed all aspects of having a son, which included coaching, watching movies and working together on the truck. They were a pair. He was so proud to see his son on the football field, basketball court or baseball diamond. He had an amazing Onalaska Family. In 2010, a beautiful little girl came into his heart, Elin Morgan. She was his world and he made it to every dance recital, swim and gymnastics meet. He loved spending time with her before she would go to bed, reading and saying prayers. His children were his world.
Bill was an incredible uncle and loved his nieces and nephews. He loved that he was there to see them grow and become such strong, independent adults. They had a special place in his heart.
Golf for Bill became a great way for him to reconnect with friends and family on various trips and outings each year. Known more for distance than accuracy, he did record a hole in one at Northern Bay Golf Club in 2021. His love for the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers was a huge part of Bill’s life. He also enjoyed countless hours of cards with his family where he had a reputation of always having the right card to disrupt the opponent with a diet dew or an old fashion next to him.
Bill is survived by his wife, Heather, his son, Sean, his daughter, Elin, his brother, Steve Gilles (Stephanie) and their children Greg (Katie) Gilles and great nephew, Griffin Gilles, Geoff Gilles & Gerry Gilles. A sister, Cheryl Van Riper (Bryan) and their children, Katie and Anna. Also survived by his mother-in law, Donna Smokey, and brother -in -law, Jeff Smokey, and his daughter, Zoey, his godmother, Gloria, her children, Rita and Mary, and cousins, Mark, Jerry, Kim, Barb, Jeanne, & Elizabeth.
On his daughter’s 11th birthday, Bill gave the greatest gift of organ and tissue donation to others in need.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents, Richard and Beatrice, his father in-law, Tom Smokey, an infant child, uncles and cousins.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 7:00 p.m., Friday, June 11th, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 1031 Main St., in Onalaska, with visitation beginning at 4:00 p.m. Msgr. Steve Kachel will officiate. Schumacher-Kish Funeral and Cremation Services of Onalaska is assisting the family. The service will be livestreamed on the church’s website at www.stpatsonalaska.com. Memorial gifts can made to Bill’s children, Sean and Elin Gilles educational fund.
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