OBITUARY

CAMILLE HELENE GILLA

11 May , 194122 March , 2019
Play Tribute Movie

Camille Helene Gilla was born on May 11, 1941 just after the Great Depression in the heart of Chicago, Illinois. Along with her family, Camille would endure impacted economy, which developed in her an enlightened ability to find bliss in otherwise common moments, while transforming everyday experiences into adventures with bonafide joy for life.

Camille was the eldest of three children to second-generation Polish immigrants Frank and Helen Killman. After a demanding day job, her dad’s true vie for life emerged at night. He poured his heart out through an alto saxophone in a band on nights he wasn’t up too late and too loud playing cards. Her mom held the home fort down with a strict but loving soul, often working side jobs to supplement income as well. Each payday, her dad would bring home a big chocolate poundcake to go along with his big smile to treat his family—a memory that would stay with Camille forever.

Their family knew money was tight and learned to savor every privilege. Money wasn’t going to buy her happiness, so she grew accustomed to finding fun on zero budget. She often walked miles to Oak Street beach to revel in the short-lived Midwest sunshine, practiced her dance moves with her brother Wally at local venues and created masterful paintings and sketches of her surrounding world. She stole her sister Marlene’s clothes, and stray pennies on the street found their way into her pockets full of hope.

Camille was drawn to her godmother and aunt Cecile (Frank’s sister) who opened Andersen’s Bakery with her son Howard. Camille was thrilled to have her first job there and remembers the distinctive taste, look and aroma of all the Polish pacskis (pastries).

She studied interior design and also took classes to bolster her typing and other business skills. She had other early jobs at a bank, the Chicago Merchandise Mart and ultimately at Stewart-Warner, where she met her future husband, George.

Camille remembers him walking by in gingham shirts with a pep in his step. He would venture down from the engineering department to the first floor where the blueprints were kept—and where she sat. She affectionately described George as “the most ambitious man I ever met.” In addition to his day job, he was attending college and doing sales on the side. Between work, he’d jog around the block to keep focused—once he was even stopped by authorities as he was ahead of his time with running for exercise.

The couple had their first of many dates on January 28, 1962—George’s 27th birthday. They spent hours engaged in conversation at a bar across the street on a cold and snowy Midwest night. Their courtship quickly flourished as they found themselves frequently closing down dance floors across the city—one night so late it turned into dawn as they slept under a park tree. A sign of more fun to come. She was swept off her feet with a proposal and the couple first eloped to seal their vows. They returned to face two unhappy mothers who immediately made plans for a traditional Catholic wedding on June 30, 1962, which proved to be an iconic 60s-esque all-day celebration. The Gillas settled into a quaint trainstop suburb called Westmont where they would throw out their anchor to grow their family including children.

The things Camille didn’t have growing up transformed into things that she made happen for her own kids Greg, Tanya and Gail in one of the most joyful childhoods they could imagine. Her love for the beach meshed with George’s fascination for boating. One lifelong hobby emerged as George successively built bigger boats to accommodate their growing family. Family vacations started long before their blue van left the driveway as Camille would pack up vacation essentials in anticipation of the adventures to come. Trips to Florida, K Cousin reunions across the Midwest, ski resorts and campsites were forever intertwined with some entertaining Mom-moment. Whether she was squealing because of a bug in her sleeping bag, nursing a sunburn or dancing with the kids, she was the light of their lives.

Camille packed her time with as much life possible. From movies and music to desserts and martinis to pools and poker, she did it all on a dime. Her penny-pinching personality continued well into her stable middle-class lifestyle where she clipped coupons and reused bags before it was vogue. Once she even got heated with a buffet worker who stopped her on the way out to confiscate a brownie she pocketed for the ride home. With all her humble childhood roots in a bunch, she took a generous bite of the brownie and hurled the rest into the can to spite her. Life was to be lived with intention and candor. No-frills bliss. Perhaps with an added cream puff and Sinatra song where possible.

Her kids’ birthday parties were her ultimate outlet as each new year beckoned the revival of her housewives’ cake decorating club lessons to adorn a host of themed backyard celebrations. Their house was transformed every month as she celebrated every American (and Hallmark) holiday in existence. New Year’s Day started off the year with a bang and continued through a detonation of Christmas décor and tradition from our living room to lovey lunchbox notes. There wasn’t a Halloween that she didn’t dress up right along with the kids and come up with some new strategy for spooking trick or treaters. Easter egg hunts were admittedly competitive among her children due to the elaborate treats and prizes she hid in the dozens of plastic eggs. One time after moving far away to California in her adulthood, daughter Gail recalls a colorful package that arrived on her desk at her job as coworkers gathered around. Inside she found an in-box Easter egg hunt that Camille had created by hiding treat-filled plastic eggs in the folds of the packaging paper inside. Unimaginable. This was the epitome of the lengths she’d go through to create magical moments for those she loved. She gave her kids more than they ever could ask for. And it was sealed every night with her signature bedtime forehead kiss. Through the years, Camille enjoyed taking additional courses to become a medical copywriter, secretary and ultimately the receptionist at Komatsu Financial in Downers Grove for many years.

While artistic talent is seemingly inborn—it’s fostered through life experiences. Sure, talented singers have the vocal chords to belt out notes, but it’s one’s soul that allows them to make melodies. Yes, artists must have a steady hand, but they could never paint with accuracy or skill without the ability to observe our world’s beauty.

For anyone who knew Camille, you know that she was an extraordinary painter. She was honored by winning an art contest while at Tuley High School by having her artwork of a ship in a harbor hang in Chicago’s Art Institute’s Goodman Gallery. This was just the beginning. With little instruction, she created hundreds of gorgeous paintings in her lifetime. As a person who grew up craving more than she had, Camille saw detail often overlooked by others. She could carefully capture on canvas the array of color in sunsets to the coarseness of bricks in an old Chicago building. And she could tell in an instant by the look on any of her children’s faces when they needed a hug. Her paintings captured so much texture, light and vivacity that they could only be the work of an individual full of insight and appreciation for this thing we call life.

In May of 2018, Camille was diagnosed with esophageal cancer yet fortunately went into remission after treatment. Determined to follow her dreams of living in California, her and George moved to California in late-summer 2018. After many memorable moments with his family, George passed away in October from Parkinson’s disease. A beautiful ceremony was held and he was honored and buried at Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego.

Many describe Camille as the most generous and thoughtful person they knew. Even in illness. In fact, moreso in illness. Her cancer returned in December 2018 and she focused on time with family, friends under the California sunshine. Her caring nature was the hallmark of her character and moved people in powerful, unexpected ways through the years. The bittersweet nature of her illness lied in how she devoted what little energy she had left to others. From a hospital bed, she shipped a sweet 16 birthday necklace to her granddaughter, a golden birthday gift to her great niece and even demanded she dictate a message to be inscribed in her son-in-law’s birthday card mid-nausea episode. She spent the better parts of two days wrapping her grandson’s seven-year birthday gifts, and rumor has it she pushed an hour in the greeting card section from her wheelchair. Even as her strength declined, her pursuit to make others smile ensued.

Even in her last days, she avidly did what she could to continue creating moments for those she loved from bed: she determinedly folded five-dollar bills into golden eggs for her grandchildren’s Easter egg hunt. From staging backyard egg hunt for her children to pouring her last moments into one for her grandchildren—her life lesson was clear and consistent. Life is to be lived out loud and all out, fiercely loving family and friends along the way. So, as we struggle to say goodbye to someone who couldn’t sit still three months ago—perhaps there is some peace in knowing she made every moment matter.

Camille passed away on March 22, 2019 surrounded by love, holding the hands of her three children and niece. Her family today includes son Greg Gilla, daughters Tanya Hayes and Gail Czyszczon, sister-in-laws Irene Engh and Evelyn Towalski, daughter-in-law Ana Mois Gilla, sons-in-law Thomas Czyszczon and Thom Hayes; five grandchildren Felicia, Jacquelyn, George, Izabella and Mason; goddaughter Cheryl Castillo, as well as 10 nephews and nieces.

Services will be held at McLeod Funeral Home in Escondido, California on April 26th, 2019. A shared life celebration and dinner will also be held on the afternoon of July 6th in the Chicago area (at son Greg Gilla’s home at 15109 Kilbourne Avenue, Midlothian, IL 60445) for relatives from all over to come together to remember the beautiful life of both Camille and George Gilla.

PLEASE COMMENT BELOW - We welcome you to comment and post photos below. Additionally, we invite you to please come together if time allows to tell stories, share photos and celebrate the great life of Camille with our family at the events mentioned above.

PROVIDE YOUR EMAIL - Please leave your email address (or contact info) below if you would like to receive an invitation for the July 6th celebration.

Services

  • Celebration of Life Friday, 26 April , 2019

Memories

CAMILLE HELENE GILLA

have a memory or condolence to add?

ADD A MEMORY
Lori and Steve Sarto and Family

1 May 2019

Dear Gail, Greg & Tanya,
Our sincere condolences
for the loss of your beautiful
Mom! Our prayers and
thought are with you all
and your families.
Very beautiful tribute story
of your mothers life journey.
Your mom will surely be
missed.
Love,
Lori & Steve Sarto & Family

Kurt .

1 May 2019

Hi Gail, Greg, Tanya,

So sorry for your loss, please pass on to Greg and Tanya. Doesn't matter what age, it is very difficult. Many fond memories with your parents, you all, as we went from little kids at the reunions to where we are today.

Please pass along condolences to your siblings -- I will check out the tributes further (read some of them, great reflections, the engineering department and blueprints, enjoyed that).

Sincerely.

Kurt

Mick and Judy Flaska

1 May 2019

Mick and Judy Flaska

1 May 2019

Mick and Judy Flaska

1 May 2019

Gail,

Great write-up, brings back many memory's of growing up in Downers and Westmont with your folks.

I attached a few pictures I found in all our old photos.

We will be in Chicago on July 6th, coming back from Branson with Donnie, so we'll be there then.

Take care,

Mick and Judy

Mark Turchan

1 May 2019

Gail, Tanya, Greg,

We found out about Camille a few days ago - and Gail's amazing notes about Camille have been passing around among the K-Cousins. Betting that you have been hearing from some of them...

We're very sorry and sad to hear about Camille. Our condolences and prayers are with you all. From Gail's notes, it sounds like something hit Camille hard and fast. It can happen to any of us, right? It's also even tougher to deal with this loss after losing your Dad not that long ago.

Hope you are all doing ok and remembering your Mom for her awesome life, her amazing thoughtfulness and the joy she brought to everyone. Gail's notes were inspiring and a great way to remember Camille as the fun-loving lady that she was. For sure, she and George are with the rest of the K-Cousins 'up-stairs', watching over all of us as we continue on our collective journeys on this side of life.


We're thinking of you folks and all the blessings to Camille Gilla!

Love to all of you from some of the Turchan gang.

Mark Turchan

Cousins Janet / Bill Turchan and Family

1 May 2019

Dear Tanya,Gail,Greg & Families

It is with deep regret that we heard of your Mom , Camilles' passing.
Camille has now joined hands with her Love, George...
Our sincere heartfelt condolences go out to You and your loved ones
at this time of remembering Camilles' inner strength. Our prayers
and thoughts are with you ALL !
Love
Cousins Janet / Bill Turchan and familly

Lindsay Marcinak

28 April 2019

My Aunt was a fantastic , spirited woman who did many things in her life. I only wish she could've met my children.I remember she always included her family no matter how far, she continued to write me letters and never forgot about my Birthday letting me know I was definately loved. Aunty Camille may you dance with the Angels and your sister,my Grandma, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL XOXO

Cheryl Castillo

26 April 2019

Well Auntie, your memorial is over, it was beautiful! All the beautiful flowers, all the beautiful memories everyone shared, I'm sure you and everyone in Heaven watched with pride and the beautiful life you had, I'm sure you and Uncle were beaming with pride listening to your children speak, you brought us all together, and we are continuing your memorial at Gail's by watching old home movies, eating, and celebrating your beautiful life. I love you forever Auntie Xoxo

Spencer Castillo

26 April 2019

Never missed a Birthday for 30 years of my life. I always got holiday cards with special words to brighten my day. Always thinking how to make others happy. Fun and energetic. The life of the party. This is how you will be remembered forever in my mind. I will miss you forever my Godmother!!!!

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY