Louis Catlin Gills was a member of the Washington Canoe Club (WCC) for 48 years. He was a past president and honorary lifetime member. He died on November 21 doing one of the things he loved best — being on the water. Gills has not been seen since the kayak he was maneuvering was found in the Potomac River. A body was found this week but has not yet been identified; however the family has decided to proceed with the service.
His daughter, Lisa Gills, said that the Washington Canoe Club was an integral part not only of her father's life, but that of her and her sister, Gina, as well.
"Throughout his life he [Gills] enjoyed sports. He boxed while in the Navy, participated in gymnastics and weightlifting, and was a competitive tennis player who played on the Navy League and other teams for 20 years.
"He was a world class canoeist who was National Champion in 1959 in C-1 single blade canoe. He rowed for the Old Dominion Boat Club from 1946 until 1953 and then raced for the Washington Canoe Club from 1956 until his last race at age 82 on October 12, 2003, at the Masters Invitational canoe/kayak competition at WCC in D.C.
"He was proud to have served on the U.S. Olympic Development Committee for Canoeing and Kayaking from 1960 to 1964. The Washington Canoe Club in Georgetown was an integral part of his life for 48 years. He was the past president and secretary of the WCC, and was awarded honorary lifetime member status.
"The river was a great source of comfort and joy for him throughout his life and he greatly enjoyed taking others out on the Potomac River to introduce them to canoeing and kayaking."
GILLS WAS THE husband of the late Esther Fedrizzi Gills and father to daughters Lisa Michelle Gills of Lafayette, Colo., and Gina Diane Gills of Alexandria. He was preceded in death by his mother Bertie, sisters Virginia and Alice, and brothers Robert, Deacon and George. Gills was a WWII Navy veteran; retired Navy Dept. reliability engineer; avid canoeist/kayaker and tennis player.
Lisa Gills said, "He is also remembered with much love and admiration by family members, friends and canoeing buddies. He was a father figure to many and a friend to all. His strength, warmth, loyalty, intelligence and wry humor will be greatly missed.
"I could not think more highly of him; he was a loving father to me and my sister Gina and devoted to my mother, Esther, his wife of 47 years, whom we lost earlier this year. I am struck with the fact that my father lived his entire life in Alexandria except for a year or two that he lived in Germany in the mid-1950 for a work assignment. Lou was born and raised in Alexandria, then raised his own family here and was living in Alexandria when he died."
Louis Catlin Gills, son of Robert Gills and Bertie Hubbard, graduated from George Washington High School at age 16. He helped with the war effort working as a machinist at the Alexandria Torpedo Plant in Old Town. After saving up enough money to have an operation to change his 4F status, he enlisted in the Navy and served during WWII as a radioman. After the war, he attended George Washington University on the GI Bill while working full-time, and subsequently graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.
He had a distinguished career working at the National Bureau of Standards [now NIST] and many years at ARINC Research Corporation before returning to federal service and retiring from the U.S. Department of the Navy as a reliability engineer.
After retirement, he enjoyed tennis and canoeing/kayaking on the Potomac River, spending time with his friends and family and working part-time at DeLancey Printing.
Helen Kerlin, sales associate at DeLancey Printing, said, "He [Louis] was a good worker, very dependable, and a good sense of humor. He always had a few remarks to make us chuckle."
A memorial service in celebration of Lou's life will be held on Saturday, December 6, at 2:30 p.m. at Jefferson Funeral Chapel, 703-971-7400, 5755 Castlewellan Dr. (just south of the intersection of Franconia Rd. and S. Van Dorn), Alexandria. Memorial contributions in his name may be made to Friends of the Washington Canoe Club, P.O. Box 3733, Washington, D.C. 20007.