T.W. Curry Parkview Chapel

755 George Street, Sydney, NS


Stephen Joseph Gillis

March 14, 1954June 22, 2020

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Stephen Joseph Gillis (Grand Mira North and Vancouver) on June 21st, at the far-too-early age of 66 years. Steve was born in Massachusetts, to James Joseph (Jimmy Ian Hamish) and Isabel (Isabel Rose) Gillis. Jimmy and Isabel were both born in Grand Mira, but moved to the ‘Boston States’ after they were married where all of their six children were born. The family moved back to the old house in Mira in 1967. Steve was an intensely intelligent, active and talkative child. As siblings in Mira, we swam together in the river, rambled through the woods, played baseball, tobogganed, and cut down our own Christmas trees. We watched the moon landing together on a floor-model black and white TV. Our Dad fixed up a wooden lapstrake rowboat for us and, with Steve at the helm, we set off on countless summer excursions around the river: three sets of oars and (on occasion) a homemade ‘Viking’ sail. After graduating from high school, Steve attended Dalhousie University for one year. For summer work, he crewed aboard a commercial vessel travelling up the coast of Labrador. And that was it. He never went back to school and became a full-time professional mariner instead. He spent most of his adult life living in and working out of Vancouver, a city he loved very much and a place where he developed many close and lifelong friends. A member of the Seafarers’ International Union, Steve crewed and piloted commercial vessels to and from destinations such as Colombia, Venezuela and Singapore. On one occasion, he sailed a tug boat back from China to BC. He lived in New Orleans for three months, working onboard barges on the Mississippi. In his later career, he was employed by a BC ferry service travelling back and forth to Washington State. In Vancouver, Steve restored a discarded, handcrafted wooden boat – of the traditional lapstrake construction, which he so much admired - which had been cast off after years of service in the fishing and forestry industries of British Columbia. The re-christened ‘Tiki’ was the scene of many adventures in the Georgia Strait and Fraser River Delta, and the petite red and white vessel always made for an eye-catching conversation piece in the marinas crowded with larger, more sophisticated craft. When Steve returned to Cape Breton full-time in 2006, the Tiki followed him east on a flatbed, and began plying the gentler waves of the Mira River. As a retiree, Steve lived a simple, fulfilling life: he ate good food, smoked good weed, told good stories, and engaged in lively debates with good friends. He had a passion for hockey, current events, and world history right up until his sad and sudden departure from a family and circle of friends who loved him so much. Steve will be remembered as a great brother, a great uncle and a great friend. He lived his life his way, with a notable aversion to conformity, but a true moral compass and a gentle heart. Steve was pre-deceased by both his parents. He is survived by his sister June Gillis; sister Darlene Gillis (of Rothesay, NB); only brother, Brian Gillis (Gina Wells); sister Bernadette Gillis (Peter Kerr); and sister Caroline Gillis (of Toronto, ON). He is also survived by his nephew and absolute best friend, Tristan Collier, as well as nephews Gerrit Collier, Jonathan Adamson and Peter Adamson; and two grand nieces, Keira Collier and Elizabeth Adamson. He is very fondly remembered by Vancouver friends Cheryl, Wayne, Jim, Mike and Raymonde. At this time, Steve’s family wish to thank all the staff at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital who offered such compassionate and quality care during his six week period of illness – in particular, the physicians and nursing staff of the ICU, the IMCU and the PCU. We are so grateful. Cremation has taken place. There will be no formal service but anyone wishing to make an ‘in memoriam’ on Steve’s behalf should give consideration to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation. Condolences and memories can be shared with family by visiting www.twcurry.com. “A man is never lost at sea…” – Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and The Sea


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Stephen Joseph Gillis

have a memory or condolence to add?

Paul Woodhouse

June 29, 2020

Although I have only met Steve once, I have heard enough about him to know many of the fond memories he gave to all his younger siblings. I remember his smiling eyes as we walked around the property and Darlene and him reminisced about some of the memories from their childhood. I would have liked to have made it back and perhaps gotten out for a voyage on the Tikki which was still in transit at the time as I recall.
Please accept my condolences and know I have been and will continue to think of you all as you work through your loss.

Peter Gillis

June 26, 2020

Dear Junie, Darlene, Brian, Bernadette and Caroline; how very sad to hear of Steve’s passing. Your wonderfully composed history of his life is a fitting tribute to him and to the unbreakable family bond you all share.
I remember “Stevie” as a boy on summer visits from Massachusetts. He was already an avid reader, intellectually curious, warm-hearted, and had a huge love of life. Gone too soon for sure.

Irene Gillis

June 25, 2020

My condolences. I am so sorry for your loss.
A beautiful tribute to a life well lived.
My fondest memory is that time Steve tried to teach me how to walk in the woods, with Tina the dog, also a Canadian newcomer in tow... and naturally I was being a failure at it... We were having great laughs, and remember a big, fat (but safe) bonfire in these backwoods after.
Too young for him to go!

Sylvia Fougere

June 25, 2020

Bernadette & Family
Please accept my sincere condolences for your loss. My prayers and thoughts are with you & your family during this difficult time ❤️

Lynn Hamilton

June 25, 2020

Bernadette, and family, I wish to extend my deepest condolences, and heartfelt sympathy to each of you at this difficult time. I hope it brings you comfort knowing that others care.
I will keep you in my in my thoughts and prayers - God bless.

Psalm 147:3
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds"

Lynn Hamilton

Bernard Currie

June 25, 2020

My condolences to all on Stephen's death. I was Physics lab partner in Gr 11 with Stephen. He out shone every one and we looked at him with admiration. Stephen showed an amazing sense of humor to all who got to know him. His obituary complements him highly. With kind regards and memories Bernie and Patricia Lynn Currie

Eileen Mallett (Gillis)

June 25, 2020

To my dear first cousins

I am so sorry to hear this news about Stephen. We send our deepest sympathy to all of his family. Take comfort in the fact that he lived a full and adventurous life. We all have such wonderful memories as kids of spending time in Mira at “the shore”. Thinking about all of you.

Sending hugs

Eileen and Jimmy

Shauna Gillis-Snow

June 25, 2020

My deepest condolences to all the family. It has been many years since I have seen any of you but have fond memories of watching wrestling and roller derby. Bless you all ❤️