School 14

James Ray Gillespie

January 10, 1934 ~ July 17, 2021 (age 87)


James Ray Gillespie, 87, of Mt. Carmel, went to be with the Lord the morning of Saturday, July 17, 2021, at Oakview Heights Continuous Care and Rehab.

He was born January 10, 1934, to the late Addison and Marie (Gustafson) Gillespie in Bluford IL.

Jim graduated from Bluford High School in 1951 where he met Virginia Byars, his sweetheart and wife for over 56 years.  He graduated Oakland City College in 1955 and served in the U.S. Air Force from 1955-1959.  While in the U.S. Air Force he began taking graduate courses in the evening, and he continued to work on advanced degrees over several decades until he eventually earned a PhD in Higher Education from Southern Illinois University. 

He was a life-long learner and an avid reader, researcher, Civil War and Lincoln historian, and writer throughout much of his life.  Although he worked at various positions as a state employee in Springfield and West Frankfort, Jim and his family eventually settled in Mt. Carmel where over the years he worked at the Chamber of Commerce, Wabash Valley College and as an economic developer for the City of Mt. Carmel. 

While living in Mt. Carmel, he became a Christian and dedicated his life to following Christ. He was a member of the First General Baptist Church in Mt. Carmel and had the privilege of making 14 short missionary trips to Jamaica.  He was also a volunteer in a prison ministry for 2 years and made weekly visits for 23 years to persons who were in the Wabash County jail, worked with 12 Step Life Recovery groups in Mt. Carmel and Lawrenceville, taught Sunday School at a local nursing home (Oakview Nursing Home) for 30 years, and was a member of the Gideon International organization for over 45 years. 

Jim was also a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather and will be missed by his family in addition many others whose lives have been touched by him as he faithfully served the Lord.

He is survived by his sons Kevin (Eleanor) Gillespie of Herrin, IL, Wayne (Georgia) Gillespie of Baldwinsville, NY, daughter Sherry (Erich) Meyer of Stendal, IN and five grandchildren, Trina Byram, Tally Sokeland, Clint Coleman, Elizabeth Merdian, Timothy Gillespie, and ten great-grandchildren, Saige Byram, Gabe Byram, Sofia Byram, Kailyn Meeks, Hailee Meeks, Logan Sokeland, Jax Coleman, Quin Coleman, Knox Coleman, and Bella Coleman.

He is preceded in death by his parents, wife Virginia Belle (Byars) Gillespie, and brother Robert Gillespie.

Services will be Thursday, July 22, 2021, at 11:30 a.m. in the Chapel of Short-Cunningham Funeral Home with Rev. Gary Underwood officiating.  Burial will follow at Wells Chapel in Bluford, IL.

Visitation will be prior to the service beginning at 10:00 a.m.  until service time at the funeral home. 

Memorial contributions may be made to First General Baptist Church, Mt. Carmel or to Gideon International. Donation envelopes will be available at the funeral home and the cemetery

Condolences may be made online at

Short-Cunningham Funeral Home is honored to serve the Gillespie family.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of James Ray Gillespie, please visit our floral store.


July 22, 2021

10:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Short-Cunningham Funeral Home
527 North Mulberry Street / PO Box 397
Mount Carmel, IL 62863

Funeral Service
July 22, 2021

11:30 AM
Short-Cunningham Funeral Home
527 North Mulberry Street / PO Box 397
Mount Carmel, IL 62863

July 22, 2021

Wells Chapel
Bluford, IL 62814


First General Baptist Church
120 W. 12th Street, Mt. Carmel IL 62863

Gideons International

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