Kenneth I. Gill
August 23, 1922 – November 19, 2020
Kenneth Ingram Gill Sr., at the age of 98, transitioned peacefully on Thursday November 19, 2020, at the home of his daughter, Cheryl Gill and grandson Thomas Christopher Riley (Chip), in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
Kenneth was born August 23, 1922 in Harlem, New York, the twin son of Robert Wesley Gill and Verna Bayne Gill. The Gill family, immigrants from Barbados, migrated to New York by way of London, England. His father was proud to provide for his family in this new land of boundless opportunities; he accepted a job as a window washer for Manhattan’s skyscrapers. His wife begged him not to accept the job although it would provide well for his family of four children and his bride. Tragically, he fell to his death on the first day. Kenneth, a five year old child, held little memory of his father.
Kenneth, and his identical twin brother, Rupert Wesley Gill, attended and graduated from New York City public elementary schools in Harlem, then, after relocating to Jamaica Queens, New York, they both attended and graduated from John Adams High School. Kenneth always aspired to become a physician, but with the lack of opportunities and limited financial resources, he selected Pharmacy and as the sole person of color in his class, graduated from Long Island University, Brooklyn College of Pharmacy in 1944.
Immediately upon graduation, and as WWII was fully engaged, Kenneth was summoned to report for draft assignment into the Armed Forces. As a new college graduate, Kenneth requested an Army assignment as that branch was integrated and would provide more advancement for a person of color with a college degree. Kenneth’s bold petition was received with disdain by the draft officer; intentionally relegated him to the segregated Navy where opportunities were limited to either a cook or steward of which Kenneth did not accept as an option. The Navy was unsure what to do with the new educated ‘Negro’ enlistee and assigned him to teach basic reading and writing to his undereducated drafted mates. Kenneth tested for advanced opportunities; due to racism, the officers were reluctant to publicly display his score, which placed him at the top of the class. Kenneth challenged them resulting in the display of the score and the advancement to Pharmacy Mate. He was honorably discharged after serving in the United States Navy for 22 months. Kenneth and his brother Rupert, took advantage of the benefits of service in the armed forces and used the G.I. Bill to build and purchase a two family home in Addisleigh Park, Queens, New York.
On March 16, 1952, Kenneth married the love of his life, Mary Louise Warner (deceased 2019), and from that union, three children were born. Kenneth Ingram Gill Jr. (‘Chip’ deceased 1987), Cheryl Ann Gill (Riley) Robert Warner Gill and one grandson, Thomas Christopher Riley (‘Chip’). In 1958, they built and lived in their second home, also in Addisleigh Park, until Kenneth and Mary relocated to Georgia in 2009. They enjoyed 67 years of marriage and legacy creation. An avid photographer, Kenneth captured priceless still and video graphic memories as the family historian. Kenneth was civic minded and served for many years in executive leadership capacity for their historically designated community association. He was a champion of civil rights and continued to speak against the pervasive injustices of the times.
Kenneth,the consummate caregiver, shared responsibility to ensure the care of his elderly mother, who referred to him as ‘her tail’, his sister Hilda, his twin brother Rupert as well as his father-in-law George Leander Warner. The extended family of his wife was vast. Every year, he dutifully brought his bride and children back to her family in Kentucky and Ohio. It was important to him to ensure the family relationships continued in spite of physical distance. His wife would lovingly joke that her family loved Ken more than her! Family meant the world to him. Kenneth was responsible for financing the college education of all three of his children, his wife and his grandson, and also helped his young adult children become legacy property owners. With no male example of his own to follow, Kenneth evolved into a powerful, loving example of how to live life with purpose. His family was his number one priority. It was no surprise his children’s friends received sage guidance and advisement as to life lessons and considerations. In recent years, many of those friends recall advice offered by Kenneth and expressed appreciated for his wisdom.
He held a dual career with The City of New York, Department of Health as a Health Inspector and also as a Pharmacist with Shipman’s Pharmacy in Hempstead, New York until his retirement in 1978 and 1980 respectively. During the past 11 years, we have been honored to provide excellent care for him as he battled Alzheimer’s disease. His grandson Chip was blessed to discover the similarities in their personalities. His grandfather is revered as a role model; a man whom he aspires to emulate.
His children are forever grateful that God chose them to be his children, and his wife honored his family leadership. Kenneth was a God fearing man, whose faith doctrine was simple: ‘He who does not love does not know God, because God is love.’ 1 John 4:8
Kenneth was preceded in death by his parents: Robert and Verna Gill, his son Kenneth Ingram Gill, Jr., his brother Clarence Gill, his sister Hilda Gill Cassar, and his identical twin brother Rupert Wesley Gill. He is survived and cherished by: his daughter Cheryl Gill (Riley), son Robert Warner Gill, and only grandchild, Thomas Christopher Riley (‘Chip’), immediate nephews Wesley Gill, Michael Gill and Robert Cassar, numerous nieces, nephews, and a host of friends and family.