NEW LONDON — On April 17, 2021, Gwain Homer Gillespie, beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather after a self-proclaimed wonderful life, died in New London, New Hampshire, surrounded by his family. He was 89 years of age.
Gwain was born on December 7, 1931, in St. Cloud, Minnesota, United States, son of Homer and Ruth (Auker) Gillespie. Gwain was one of eight siblings and, after the family moved to Owatonna MN, he graduated from high school there. Among his accomplishments, he was president of the senior class, voted "Most Likely to Succeed" and excelled in athletics, rising to become the captain of the football team.
Gwain's accomplishments in high school foreshadowed his success in abundant future endeavors.
Gwain attended Gustavus Adolphus College for two years and then transferred to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor of Business Administration.
While at the University of Michigan, Gwain married Faith (nee Kruger), with whom he had seven children, Shannon, Kevin, Gwain, Robin, Alison, Patrick, and Colin. They divorced in 1976.
In 1979, Gwain married Janet (nee Warn) and embraced her two children, Michael and Patricia, as his own.
Upon graduation from UofM, Gwain went on to build a unique and meteoric career in the world of finance and management.
He first went to Touche Ross & Company, where, as a CPA, he became a partner.
In the early 1960s, Gwain was recruited to Chrysler Corporation where he quickly moved through the ranks, becoming one of the youngest to be a divisional leader as general manager of Dodge Trucks. His love of that position continued as he collected and restored antique Dodge pickups.
In 1970, Gwain was tapped to run the French Division of Chrysler, Simca/Chrysler France and moved his family to Paris. It was under his leadership that Chrysler/Matra/Simca cars stacked up multiple wins at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In 1973, he became President Director of Chrysler Europe and moved to London England.
Gwain returned to Detroit, in 1976 to take on the position of executive vice president/CFO of Chrysler Corporation.
In 1978 Gwain left Chrysler to become the senior vice president, finance and administration of Heublein, Inc., in Farmington, Connecticut.
In 1983, Gwain was appointed to the position of senior vice president, chief financial officer, and a director of Richard Joshua Reynolds Industries, Inc., Winston-Salem, North Carolina. At RJR, he was instrumental in executing the widely published and complex RJR/Nabisco merger, the story of which became the novel and feature film Barbarians at the Gate.
In 1987, Gwain relocated to Washington DC to take the position of executive vice president, CFO, and director at First American Bankshares Inc., Washington.
In 1988, after a brief tenure there, Gwain moved to become executive vice president of finance and administration as well as vice-chairman of Unum Corporation, Portland, Maine. Gwain retired from Unum in 1996.
Throughout his life, Gwain was very active in professional and community organizations. Along with being regularly listed as a noteworthy financial executive by Marquis Who's Who, he was the General Chairman of the 1978 Detroit United Foundation Torch Drive, raising a record $42 million. Most recently, he was involved with The Trustee Tax Foundation Inc., the board of directors for the Portland Concert Association, and the Maine Development Foundation. He was also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountantsand the Finance Executives Institute.
While Gwain grew up with a love for performing music, either on his baritone horn, piano, or singing with his church groups, he was most intensely involved with athletics, first as a starter in football, basketball and all-state tennis player. His love for sports continued as a passionate fan of the Michigan Wolverines, and his favorites, the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots.
Gwain would spend hours reading and amassed a collection of first-edition French detective novels. He also enjoyed playing card games with his children, a diversion where he demonstrated his well-honed skills for strategy and winning.
Gwain's true passion was his love for building and improving corporations, which he did with notable success for nearly 50 years.
Gwain was funny, intelligent, generous, humble, and compassionate. With his affable and open demeanor, he earned the regard and respect of countless people in his personal and professional life.
Gwain is survived by his children, Shannon, Kevin (Kristine), Gwain (AKA Geordie) (Jenny), Alison (Greg), Patrick (Rhonda), Colin, (Ginger) and Patricia (Elliott).
He also leaves many other family members including his brothers Gayle and Marlyn, his grandchildren Benjamin, Heather, Carmen, Noah, Dominic, Quinn, Faith, Nadine, Max, Zoe, Nathan, Vera, Rhyland, Nigel, Athena, Avalon, Cat, Ford, Kathryn, Christopher, Michael, Nicholas as well as his great-grandchildren, Norah, Kia'I, Isla, Tessa, Noelle, Dominick,
Gwain is preceded in death by his beloved wife of 41 years, Janet Gillespie, his parents, Homer and Ruth, his siblings, Gwen, Ludwig, Phyllis, Marjorie, and Bonita, his daughter Robin and his stepson, Michael.
Our whole family would like to express our gratitude for the exceptionally kind and love-filled treatment that Gwain received from the amazing caregivers at Woodcrest Assisted Living, all the health care professionals at New London Hospital and the inspiring people at the New London VNA/Hospice. The grace with which he was treated had a profoundly positive impact on the quality of Gwain's life and the well-being of those who loved him.