James A. Gillison was a decorated State Trooper.
He died on Tuesday, July 22, 2014. He was 67.
He was born on May 22, 1947 to Dora Rausie Wilkie and James Henry Gillison. He was the first of three children.
Gillison was educated in the School District of Philadelphia where he attended Barry Elementary School, Shoemaker Junior High School and Overbrook High School.
As a young man, his family said Gillison developed a steady and energetic work ethic.
“His potential was limitless and he was not deterred by existing barriers. James set his goals and took all actions to accomplish them,” his family said.
After high school, Gillison was employed by the Philadelphia Navy Yard. He enlisted in the Air Force as a weapons mechanic where he got the nickname “Duck.” He completed a tour oversees in Germany arming planes before he was honorably discharged in 1972 as a staff sergeant.
In 1973, he met and married Bonnye Jones who would be his life partner for the next 41 years. Two children were born to their union.
He continued employment at the Navy Yard until he applied and was accepted as a cadet in the Pennsylvania State Police Academy as one of the organization’s first minority members. To further his professional knowledge, Gillison enrolled in Saint Joseph’s University to pursue a degree in criminal justice. He graduated from Saint Joseph’s in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Since there were no positions available in the Philadelphia area, Gillison was stationed in Coudersport in Potter County. He continued his duties there until being transferred to Troop K in Philadelphia. Mostly a highway patrol officer, he was also designated for alternate duties as a minority recruitment officer, undercover officer, hostage negotiator and Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) member. Gillson was called upon to respond to emergency situations and always answered the call without delay including regaining control of Camp Hill prison in 1989 following two days of prisoner riots.
Gillison served as a security detail during President Jimmy Carter’s trip to Lansdowne in 1980.
He was also in charge of security during the Republican National Convention held in Philadelphia in 2000.
Gillison retired from the State Police in 2001 but he desired to keep working. This resulted in him obtaining employment at Community Education Partners School for at risk students as a security supervisor. Always a mentor, he loved his new job applying his desire for teaching and his law enforcement training. His position was ended in 2005 and Gillison decided that it was finally time to rest.
He devoted a lot of time to being a Mason and Shriner and through his efforts and leadership ability achieved the positions of past master Athenian No. 24, past potentate Pyramid Temple No. 1, member DeMolay No. 1 and grand inspector general of the 33rd degree.
Gillison also participated in the award winning Foot Patrol using his ingrained military bearing and attention to detail. His commitment also took him all over the country with his wife Bonnye to conventions in cities such as Atlanta, New Orleans, Saint Louis and Houston to name a few.
Gillison was an active member of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church for more than 50 years. He recently served as the pastor’s security detail.
Gillison was a proud family man who always boasted about his family to his friends, family and fraternal brothers.
When he wasn’t busy, Gillison took time for some of his hobbies including fishing. His family said whether it was on the banks of a river or miles off shore in the Atlantic, when he had his fishing line in the water, he was happy.
He was preceded in death by his sister Debra Stout.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his son James Martin (Dean’na); daughter Lisa Marie Gebrehiwot (Biruk); grandchildren Natasha, Nina, Noelle, Dylan and London; sister Valerie Coleman; brother-in-law Alvin Stout; nephew Jonathan Stout and nieces Denita Coleman and Lauren Stout and other relatives and friends.
Services will be held July 26 at 10 a.m. at Mother Bethel AME Church, 419 S. 6th St.