Oak Hill Funeral Home & Memorial Park

300 Curtner Ave, San Jose, CA


Willard Glenn Gillette

“G.I.” Gillette flew west on November 20, at age 101.

Born in rural Kansas, Willard (Bill) Gillette saw the world change from horse and buggy to self-driving cars, witnessed the destruction of World War II and the birth of two great-grandsons. He maintained a deep and abiding faith in a merciful God. He was always a pragmatic man who could find wonder and novelty in life and his experiences.

Bill was drafted into the Army just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He transferred to the Army Air Corps and trained to be a pilot as a member of the 4th Fighter Group (334th Fighter Squadron, 8th Air Force) stationed in Debden, England. His time in the Army earned him the nickname “G.I.”. He flew ground cover on D-Day, was on the first shuttle run to Moscow, and participated in Allied support in Italy. He commented that he went, within a few months, from plowing with horses to a fighter plane going 400 miles an hour.

While stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco, Bill met Betty Lou (Betsy) Hamilton, whom he married in 1945. Bill left the military but continued to work as a flight instructor. His work necessitated moving often, and as they moved, their family increased: from Nevada to Louisiana (a son), to Southern California (two daughters), to Arizona (one daughter), to Missouri, and, finally to San Jose, California, where Bill worked as a mechanic/small plane pilot until he began working for Japan Air Lines as a flight instructor in Napa.

After retiring, Bill took up golf, which he played weekly (as long as the grass was dry) until his last illness.

Bill is predeceased by his wife Betty Lou, his son Glenn, five sisters, and his second wife June. He is survived by his three daughters: Janet, Judy (husband John), and Virginia (husband Bruce); brother James (wife Hazel); two granddaughters Tanya (husband Michael) and Diana (husband Joseph); two grandsons, Brandon and Pierce; and, two great-grandsons Theodore and Robert; as well as many nieces, nephews, and cousins. Services will be held at Oak Hill Cemetery in San Jose: viewing on December 4 (11:00 AM to 7:00 PM), funeral on December 5 at 10:30 in the Chapel of the Oaks, luncheon at 11:30, and graveside ceremony with military honors at 1:30.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in Bill’s name to one of his favorite charities: Second Harvest Food Bank (sfhb.org) or Paralyzed Veterans of America (pva.org).


  • Visitation in Room E Wednesday, December 4, 2019
  • Funeral Service in Chapel of the Oaks Thursday, December 5, 2019
  • Reception Thursday, December 5, 2019
  • Graveside Service Thursday, December 5, 2019


Willard Glenn Gillette

have a memory or condolence to add?

Lanay Stearns

December 5, 2019

Will miss seeing one of my favorite customers. He was always so cheerful and full of interesting opinions.

Judy Gillette

November 30, 2019

Dad reliving proud moments.

Virginia (Ginny) Young

November 29, 2019

He was the bestest father.