James William Gilges III, 85, of Leawood, KS, died Thursday, March 8, 2018 at Brighton Gardens of Prairie Village, of heart failure.
Bill was born in June 1932 in Kansas City to J.W. and Frances D. Gilges; he attended Border Star elementary and Southwest High school, and earned his Eagle Scout rank before attending Dartmouth College on a Navy ROTC scholarship.
After a three year around-the-world cruise aboard U.S.S. Henley (DD762), he began his 35 year sales career with IBM, proudly helping usher in the modern computer age, achieving 15 100% Club years, and a number of Golden Circle (top 1%) awards.
His love of the outdoors was sparked early in his life, stoked by Boy Scout Troop 123, and furthered with the Dartmouth Outing Club. He continued actively pursuing outdoor activities, backpacking the Tetons, summiting Long's Peak, hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim, learning to kayak at the Otter Bar Ranch, spending a week on horseback in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
An ardent snow skier, he taught his wife on their honeymoon, and each son as soon as each was able to stand on skis. Bill and wife Janie were instrumental in the early success of the Kansas City Ski Club. He is credited with helping start the ski racing program within the club, and issued a race challenge to Midwest ski clubs, resulting in the Flatland Ski Association , which went on to, at one point, stage the largest amateur alpine ski race in the world. A severe accident halted his ability to ski, but he regained his ability to walk through sheer determination and willpower. The cross-county and high school distance runner inside him served to bolster his fortitude and ultimate victory in this battle.
As a 10 year docent at the Kansas City Zoo, he taught visitors about the importance of our interconnected natural world, and served 13 years on the board of the Kansas Chapter of The Nature Conservancy He was a gardener of both flowers and vegetables, a cultivator of relationships, and an avid bird watcher. His love of adventure travel took him to such far-flung places as Borneo, and Costa Rica for birds; several safaris in Africa for animals; he drove every major road in Ireland for the culture and history; and Alaska and South America for the natural splendor. He took up scuba diving later in life ("easier on the knees!") and made several dive trips with family and friends.
Bill was predeceased by Janie, his wife of 52 years. He is survived by their two sons William D. (Denise), Gordon L. (Bethany) and grandson Mateo J. Gilges, as well as his brother Robert D. (Carroll) Gilges.
His religious life was centered in St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, where his parents were very active. There he was christened, served as an acolyte, was confirmed, and was married to Lydia Jane Denni on December 27, 1958.
A memorial service will be held at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Wornall Road at Meyer Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri on Saturday, April 14, 2018, at 11:00 a.m. In recognition of his love for oratory and a microphone, a celebration of stories will follow the memorial; also in Brookside. Friends and family are encouraged to share.
Donations can be made to: KU Alzheimer Research
The Nature Conservancy
Father. Teacher. Leader. Adventurer. Conservationist. Idealist.