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Just for Seniors

placeholder January 9, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA
Senior Living & Resources

Jane and Jim Gillis have written books related to the University of Notre Dame.

Writing in the prime of life
These authors got their start in their 80s

"Where Sleep the
Makers of Notre Dame, From Sorin to Hesburgh: The History of Holy Cross Cemetery."

2016, $20, plus $4 for shipping
Email: Jimjanegillis@aol.com

"This could be our best book yet," Jim Gillis says of his latest book.

"Time will tell," adds Jane Gillis, his co-author — and bride of 66 years.

The Rossmoor residents, who attend St. Anne Parish, began writing together when they were in their 80s. They have published, "Where Sleep the Makers of Notre Dame, From Sorin to Hesburgh: The History of Holy Cross Cemetery."

It follows the publication two years ago of their book on Cedar Grove Cemetery, the other cemetery on the University of Notre Dame campus. In between, Jane Gillis published a cookbook featuring recipes from Notre Dame notables.

The book features biographies, and stories of the Holy Cross priests buried at the cemetery reserved for the priests and brothers.

"The idea came because of the first book," he said. "

Jim Gillis is a member of the Class of 1951. He and Jane met and wed during his post-war time at Notre Dame, where he was an athlete.

"Working long distance is not easy," Jim Gillis said.

The challenge was overcome with close collaboration with Rev. Chris Kuhn, CSC, the cemetery archivist.

"We'd call him from here," Jim Gillis said, motioning to his den, with computer and Notre Dame memorabilia. "We give Father Kuhn a lot of credit up front," he said.

In addition to the calls, the Gillises made six trips to the campus during the 2½ years they were researching the volume.

The book also recounts the conflict between the Holy Cross priests and brothers.

The Gillises were contacted by John Manion, Class of 1956, who offered to ask his classmates for their recollections of the priests they knew during their time at Notre Dame.

"We came up with some wonderful stories," Jim Gillis said.

One of the gems is written by Gillis himself, about the legendary university president, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, who took his place in the cemetery in 2015.

"I really got to know Father Hesburgh in 1951," Jim Gillis said. "I was doing play-by-play basketball for the radio station. It was my senior year — Jane and I were just married."

Jim Gillis asked Moose Krause, the Notre Dame basketball coach and athletic director, if he could accompany the team to Madison Square Garden to broadcast the NYU-Notre Dame game.

"Nobody had ever done that," Jim Gillis said.

The cost of the phone line to accommodate the broadcast was a staggering $500. Jane Gillis sold $500 worth of advertising — half of it to Frito-Lay, which she reached by making a collect call to Detroit — to finance the venture.

The game date was Feb. 14, 1951.

Jim Gillis' halftime guest was Father Hesburgh, who climbed the rafters of the old Madison Square Garden to keep his promise to be interviewed on the broadcast.

On that trip, too, Jim Gillis was invited to a sportscasters' luncheon, where he sat next to Mel Allen, the fabled Yankees broadcaster.

"It created an interest," Jim Gillis said. "I later spent 33 years in broadcasting."

At the end of the month, Jim Gillis will attend a Southern California sportcasters event honoring retiring Dodger play-by-play man Vin Scully.

Also on the Gillises' calendar is a trip to Notre Dame in June.

"We always go to the reunion," he said.

During that weekend, they will go to a book signing event at the Notre Dame bookstore, where their book has a place on the shelves.

They hope to get in a football game this fall — they passed in the 2016 season to meet their book deadline.

Comments on the book have so far been positive, the Gillises report. The ex-baseball player smiled as he recounted one: "Jim, you hit a home run on this one."

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