OBITUARY

Gilbert W. Bickum

April 24, 1938December 13, 2020
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Dr. Gilbert W. Bickum passed peacefully surrounded by his loved ones on Sunday, December 13, 2020 at the Vitas Hospice House in Rockledge, FL. He had fought a long battle with dementia, but kept his love of music apparent.

Gil was born on April 24, 1938 in Newton, Massachusetts, the youngest of 3 children to Malcolm and Annabelle Bickum. After graduating from Newton High School, he began the NROTCU program at Tufts University where he attained his Bachelor of Engineering Degree and became a Naval Officer. He was then transferred to Pensacola, FL for flight training and joined the Navy Choir enabling him to perform at the White House. He then moved to San Diego, CA to work in the HS-4 helicopter unit responsible for anti-submarine warfare. While at Tufts, he met and courted the love of his life, Loris. They dated for 9 years, culminating their “whirlwind romance” with a wedding back in Pensacola in 1966. While there he became a flight instructor and enjoyed performing in Community Theater. Nine months later their daughter, Bonnie was born.

Shortly after Bonnie’s birth, they returned to San Diego, CA where he became a squadron’s operations officer and was then deployed to Vietnam. While there he earned several medals and citations for his bravery flying rescue helicopters into battle.

After he safely returned from Vietnam, the family was transferred to Key West, FL and then to Jacksonville, FL where they were fortunate to put down some roots. While stationed at NAS Jax, he was an Air Traffic Control Officer for over 2 years. His final station in the Navy was in Millington, TN as an Aviation Officer. After his retirement in 1980 as Lieutenant Commander, he moved his family back to Jacksonville where he obtained his MBA at the University of North Florida. He then earned his PHD in Finance at the University of Florida. To help balance out all his time spent in academia, he began honing his tennis skills.

In 1984, he began a new career as a Finance Professor at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. A few years later, he moved the family to Richmond, KY where he continued to teach Finance at Eastern Kentucky University. While there he and Loris enjoyed singing in their church choir and Dad improved his tennis game enough to begin acting as assistant tennis coach for the EKU Men’s tennis team. In the Spring of 1993, Gil and his daughter enjoyed his Spring Break hiking the Grand Canyon together. Many great memories were created!

After Gil’s retirement from EKU, he and Loris moved to their vacation condo in St. Augustine, FL where he resumed teaching finance at Flagler College. While there, he became the assistant coach for their Men’s tennis team.

Then, when Gil’s first grandson was born, he finally really retired and moved down to Rockledge, FL to be near family. Despite the distance, he enjoyed commuting to St. Augustine a few times a week to continue playing tennis with his friends. At this time, he joined the choir at Rockledge Presbyterian Church and volunteered as a performer at Cocoa Village Playhouse. One of his favorite theatrical memories was when he performed in 1776 both at CVP and the King’s Center in Melbourne. In 2003, he amazed friends and family by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with two of his beloved nieces. From the depths of the Grand Canyon to one of the highest mountains in the world, Gil had a passion for life, yet always had a strong moral compass. He demonstrated steadfast commitment to his loved ones and never hesitated to jump into action if anyone needed help. He is predeceased by his parents, Malcolm and Melissa Annabelle (Grant) Bickum, his brother Alan Bickum, and his sister Beverly (Bickum) Decker. He is survived by his wife, Loris (Phillips) Bickum, his daughter Bonnie (Bickum) McClelland (John), grandsons Kyle and Ryan McClelland, brother-in-laws Tom Phillips (Jan) and Tom Decker, nieces Julie Phillips, Judy Johnson (Jim), Stephanie Johnson (Jeff), Elizabeth Decker (Valerie), and nephews Keith Phillips (Kathy), Tommy Phillips and Eric Phillips.

Graveside service to be held at Florida Memorial Gardens in Rockledge, FL on January 16, 2021.

In lieu of flowers, please submit donations to the Alzheimer’s Foundation in the name of Dr. Gilbert W. Bickum.

Services

  • Graveside Service

    Saturday, January 16, 2021

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Memories

Gilbert W. Bickum

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Bob & Marilyn Fisher

January 16, 2021

Gil and I first met and became friends as flight students in Pensacola over 60 years ago. A few years later we were again stationed together in Pensacola, this time as flight instructors, when Gil and Loris married. They soon became fast friends with Marilyn and me, close enough friends that they trusted us to have Bonnie stay with us when they went on vacation. We shared many fun occasions with Gil and Loris such as going to the Alhambra Dinner Theater and the Cocoa Village Playhouse, touring Flagler College with then Professor Bickum as our personal guide, and cruising twice to the Caribbean with them. Gil will always be remembered as a true friend.

liz decker

January 16, 2021

Gilbert, Stephanie, Liz (and elephants) on safari, Tanzania

Darrell and Greta Orcutt

January 16, 2021

We met Gil, Loris and Bonnie when we were all stationed in Key West, Florida. Darrell and Gil were pilots in the Navy. Our friendship has continued throughout the decades. We have shared many joys and sorrows together.

One special memory was when we spent New Years Eve in Charleston. We rang in the New Year with gusto.We often traveled to each others homes and enjoyed the many times we watched Gil perform in plays. From Key West to Cocoa Village, he was a star!

We are so sorry for your loss. Gil will be missed -especially for his humor!

Bob and Kim Trujillo

January 15, 2021

Dear Loris and family,
Our deepest sympathies and prayers are with you through this time of heartbreaking loss.
May God walk beside you and guide you through this time of healing.
God bless you now and forever.
With our deepest sorrow,
Bob and Kim Trujillo

Dr Al and Patricia Bajohr

January 14, 2021

To dear Loris and Bonnie,
It’s with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Gil , our friend for nearly 50 years . Our family first met the Bickum family in 1972 when we were stationed at the Key West Naval Base. We were neighbors sharing a car port on Gilmore Drive and we can recall so many joyous times there which led to so many more joy filled times together.
Gil, a career LCdr naval pilot and Al a young surgeon from NYC were both serving a 2 year commission on that beautiful island. Our families enjoyed homes on the Gulf and Gil had a boat - the Bonnie Dee and an piper cub aircraft which we used to get us to Disney World which was recently opened in Orlando. Our memory of the weekend journey to Disney World remains vivid. Loris , Gil and 5 year old Bonnie and Pat and Al and Chris (4);and Peter(2) in the small plane with Gil in command with a lollipop in his mouth as we traveled north to Orlando. A precious memory, indeed.
Over the years since Key West our families ( we added two more sons, Jonathan and David ) became closer and closer. We have traveled, visited and attended each other’s special events and have always felt the deep bond between us.
We’ve been blessed to have had Gil in our life and mourn his loss .May he rest in eternal peace. The Bajohr Family

Liz Decker

January 14, 2021

I want to publicly acknowledge the deep love and respect I have always had for my Uncle Gil.
There is no way to express how grateful to God I am for his support, comedic ability, and light he gave to this world.
We shared some of our greatest loves: music , cars and tennis.
My favorite place on Earth I found because of him, Florida. Fresh citrus trees, salt in the air, a warmth and calm that embodies his spirit.
He was always willing to share what I loved, even when he did not feel like it. He lathered up in sunscreen and hit balls with me, went to the beach ALL day, and he asked me what I wanted to see. His door and his heart were always open.

His sister Beverley was the joy of my life, they were so alike. I am like her in most ways, but my hands (I was a professional violinist ), are identical to Gil’s. As adventurous as he was, he was eager to join in the trip to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro. This was a highlight in my life, and I hope his as well.

It is with sorrow that I watch his part of the light that is his drift off for our Lord Jesus to reclaim. We can only miss him and strive to emulate the good that he was while we had him.

Charles and Joan Falk

January 12, 2021

We came to know Gil and Loris and Bonnie when Gil joined the faculty at EKU--about 30+ years ago. Gil was a very smart guy, a gifted teacher, a great colleague, and a dear friend. His talents were diverse and enviable. We especially appreciated his ready, humorous observations about life and the times. EKU was better because Gil was a part of it. Importantly, Gil was also patriot and served his county in significant ways.

Over the years, we shared several experiences with Gil and Loris. These included flying over Central Kentucky with Gil at the controls, a long-weekend in North Carolina touring the Biltmore Estate, and several get-togethers in Florida, after Gil and Loris settled there following his retirement from EKU. We also were pleased to host Gil and Laura in our Illinois home many times after we relocated there from Kentucky. And to this day, we still miss weekend breakfasts at the Cracker Barrel in Richmond with Gil and Loris and other friends present.

Gil's loss deeply saddens us. We offer condolences to Loris, Bonnie and to all family members and friends who mourn him.

Valerie Saurer

January 11, 2021

Gil and I sang in several choruses together over the years. I often sing tenor with the men, so we had plenty of opportunity to interact. I could always count on Gil to make me laugh.

We once traveled with the chorus to Scandinavia, where we did a series of small concerts in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. It was a magical trip, but not without complications and unexpected delays.

One day, we took a scenic train ride through the mountains of Norway to our next destination: a picturesque hotel in Voss, the town where they bottle that expensive and delicious water you see in stores. Along the way, we stopped at a store that sold Viking themed souvenirs and authentic Norwegian items. I bought a book about trolls and a bag of naked lady candy (it’s what I’m holding in this picture); Gil bought a Viking hat with long pinkish tresses attached, because he’s Gil and of course he did.

Not long after leaving that store, the train broke down at the top of a mountain at a little station called Myrdal. We were so high up that there was snow in July. We had to wait there all afternoon for another train to come and rescue us. Although Myrdal was definitely not on our itinerary, it turned out to be one of my most treasured memories of that trip.

That day, we all got to know each other better. There were those among us who were outraged at the delay, and spent the entire afternoon angry and fuming. Gil was not one of those people.

Instead of letting the delay dampen his spirits, Gil donned his Viking hat and set about enjoying the afternoon in spite of the delay. While some fumed angrily, and others went for a hike, Gil and I, along with many others, stayed in the station telling stories and singing songs, and generally entertaining ourselves until the rescue train arrived.

Gil was a happy, kind-hearted man, who loved to sing and was an excellent travel companion. I was honored to be his friend.

Thomas Phillips

January 10, 2021

My sister is Gil's wife Loris. Most importantly, I want to say what a wonderful husband and partner Gil was for Loris. He kept her safe, comfortable and happy. He was patient, understanding and loving. Together they made a wonderful couple. They also raised an amazing daughter in Bonnie. She is a reflection of their best qualities.

I will always remember watching my sister and Gil walk under the bridge of military swords at their wedding . I was not sure how my sister would fair as a military wife but she blossomed.

My son Tom Jr. remembers playing tennis with uncle Gil. My son Eric has a picture of sitting in one of Gil's sport cars. My other son Keith, always spoke lovingly of uncle Gil. My daughter remembers Gil teaching her how to drive a standard shift car. I, too, rember Gil for his cars. He let me drive his Vet. I had no idea the power of it's turbo and nearly crashed backing out of his drive way. I also remember him teaching, that to save gas, to put the car in neutral when stopping at a light. My wifr, Jan, always remarked about what wonderful hosts both Gil and Loris were when ever we visited.

I wish my sister, Bonnie, John and their children only the best and that their lives will be continued to be enriched by having Gil in their lives.

MARK GOLUB

December 28, 2020

Gil and I were good friends at Newton High School and at Tufts, We sang together in the high school quartet ("The New-tones") and in all the school choirs. Gil introduced me to the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, where we continued our friendship. Gil was a great individual. He was humble and thoughtful, letting his actions do the talking for him. My condolences to Loris and their family, and may God bless Gil's soul for all eternity...

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