We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Duggan's Mission Chapel
Ronald MacPherson Gillis passed away peacefully at his home in Sonoma, California on May 5th, 2022, with his wife and four daughters lovingly caring for him. He was 92 years old.
Ron was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, the youngest of three boys. Ron was the mischievous one, but he also enjoyed swimming, canoeing, ice skating and bumper hitching. He enlisted in the Navy during the Korean War and spent time in Guam and Adak Alaska. Later, he was a constant companion to his ailing brother Angus. Ron held a variety of jobs, many related to lumber and mining.
During his time in the US Navy he was introduced to the West Coast, and he later returned to San Francisco. Shortly after arriving, he met Virginia Popiel, and they married in 1965. They settled in Larkspur, where they raised four daughters and domesticated many stray cats.
Ron was a soft-hearted loving father to his four daughters. He encouraged their ideas, cheered their adventures, and was proud of their accomplishments, as children and as adults. He selflessly spent hours patiently driving them around or waiting in the car for them to get off work/get out of a wild party/clean the horse stable.
In Larkspur, Ron was active in the American Legion Post 313. When Ron and Virginia moved to Sonoma in 2013, he combined the Post 313 traditions of Monday donuts and 4th of July pancakes to start organizing Monday pancake socials in their new senior community. In his recent years, he is best known as “Pancake Ron” and for his signature floppy fishing hat.
Ron was a life-long learner and an insatiable reader, especially interested in the US Constitution, American politics, 20th century history, stock investing, classic literature and Catholicism. He left several sets of books on economics, as well as Dante’s The Divine Comedy, as if he intended his family to read them after his passing. Whether through road trips or reading, he could tell you something about nearly every town in the US. He made a point of acknowledging and engaging with people who could otherwise be overlooked. He was painstakingly honest, with a strong sense of social responsibility. Despite his rapidly declining health, he wouldn’t admit he was sick until his income taxes were complete.
Ron is survived by Virginia, his wife of 56 years, and their four daughters - Trinka Gillis Widerstrom, Faith Pietruszka, Hope Rigsby and Charity Gillis, as well as three sons-in-law, Bjorn Widerstrom, Gary Rigsby and Tom Pietruszka, grandchildren Grace, Daniel and Jacob Rigsby, Nils and Linnea Widerstrom, and granddog Sierra. Ron’s parents, John Ewen Gillis and Margaret Currie MacArthur, and his two brothers, John and Angus, precede him in death.
Losing this kind man will leave an empty space in our hearts and an empty seat at our breakfast table, but we are grateful for 92 wonderful years.
A memorial mass will be held at St. Francis Solano Church in Sonoma, 11:30am on Friday June 24th, followed by a reception at Pueblo Serena Mobile Home Park.