Gary "Smokie" Gillis
Gary “Smokie” Gillis, age 61, departed this world to begin his heavenly journey on Thursday, December 15, 2017. He was proud to be a long-time resident of Sarasota, Florida. Born March 30th, 1955 in McComb, Mississippi to Sterling Lewis and Joyce Gillis, he was very proud of his family and its distinguished heritage. He was one of seven children. In 1974, he headed to Florida after the Army with nothing but a smile and heart for the tropics! He loved the beaches and outdoors and decided to make Sarasota his home. Three years later, he met and married the love of his life, Leslie Ann Waters Gillis. He built from scratch a successful land-clearing business doing work for Sarasota County, Florida Power and Light, and homeowners, too. He was very involved with his church, Northminster Presbyterian Church. Both he and his wife were youth group leaders. Smokie was a Deacon and Elder of his beloved church. He loved organizing and doing the Annual Christmas Hayride for the church complete with cookout, caroling at the nursing home, and back for s’mores. Later in life, he also pursued his passion for photography, completing the Education Degree in Professional Photography earning the status of Certified Professional Photographer. He was also a member of the Bay Professionals Photographer Association. He ran the two businesses simultaneously and eventually focused on photography alone. Being the perfectionist he was, he opened his own studio to print his own photos. His work was beautiful. He also trained with the Humane Society with HIS two golden retrievers to do Pet Therapy taking them to hospitals, nursing homes and also the “Reading with Children” program at local libraries, which he loved. Gary was a loving husband and will be greatly missed.