Blessed with a gift for leadership, John Charles Gillon of Huntington launched many young people’s careers though his family knew they always came first.
Especially his wife, Jeanne, who married him more than five decades ago. If her advice in the end proved sounder than his, “He’d say, ‘You see Jeanne, you were right again,’ ” she recalled.
“I knew he was very proud of me,” Jeanne Gillon said. Marrying her, Gillon used to say, “was the smartest thing he ever did.”
Though he retired in the 1990s as Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s regional sales manager, one of his sons, who followed him into the same industry, still encounters people who ask after his father.
“It was probably three weeks ago, when I ran into someone who had worked for my dad, and he’s now the CEO of an insurance agency,” said Robert Gillon of Commack.
“He knew that my father was not well, and he said, ‘Look at my career,’ and he rattled off another five people” who also owed their success to him, he said. “That’s all testament to my dad.”
Pulmonary fibrosis took John Gillon’s life on Sept. 9. He was 81.
Born on Jan. 2, 1935, in Brooklyn, Gillon went to St. Jerome School in Flatbush, Brooklyn and Immaculata High School in Manhattan, his family said.
Graduating from St. Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania, in 1957, he joined MetLife, an association that endured 37 years as he rose from a claims adjuster to group sales executive.
The draft interrupted Gillon’s career in April 1958 and he entered the Army as a specialist in counterintelligence at Fort Holabird in Baltimore.
After serving two years, he rejoined the insurer, and met his wife, a Lloyd Harbor schoolteacher, a year later.
“From the beginning we just knew; we only knew each other six weeks and we were discussing marriage,” she said.
Gillon took pride in his Irish heritage, and his Catholicism was important to him, his family said, noting he was a faithful parishioner of the Church of St. Patrick in Huntington.
The executive also loved tennis, and as former head of the Bay Club had hoped to inculcate this sport to his grandchildren, who called him “Da,” his family said.
That will not be all they remember about him. “He was always, always a man of great honor and integrity. That’s his legacy, the values he has,” his wife said.
In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by his sister, Eileen of Pasadena, California; sons, John Jr. of Huntington and Edward of Silver Spring, Maryland; and five grandchildren.
The M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington is holding visiting hours Monday, from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m.
The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Tuesday, 9:45 a.m., at the Church of St. Patrick in Huntington before he is interred at St. Patrick’s Cemetery.