Robert J. Gillespie, Jr., devoted husband, father, grandfather, and brother died peacefully at his home on July 12. His beloved wife of forty-nine years, Sara (Sally) Loftus Gillespie, was by his side.
Bob was well-known throughout Northeast Pennsylvania for his great integrity, tremendous compassion, quick humor, and unmatched intelligence. A lifelong resident of the Hazleton area, Bob graduated from St. Gabriel’s High School, traveling out of town to attend the College of the Holy Cross and Dickinson Law School and to serve in the Army Reserves. After graduating, Bob knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and practice law in Luzerne County.
Bob’s Jesuit education at Holy Cross served as a foundation for his life’s work. He was truly a man who stood for and with others. Bob loved his work as a lawyer, genuinely seeking to make the world a more just place. After graduating from Dickinson, he served as an Assistant Attorney General, Assistant District Attorney, and First Assistant District Attorney, while also managing to be an active volunteer with the East End Fire Department in Hazleton. Voters elected Bob to the Luzerne County District Attorney position in 1982. As District Attorney, Bob was committed to not only prosecuting offenders, but also working to prevent offenses from occurring with robust drug education programs and community outreach initiatives. In 1985, The Times Leader called Bob a “nice guy in a nasty job,” in large part because of his incredible work-life balance. He insisted on being home in time for dinner every night with his wife and three children, and never missed one of his kids’ baseball games or school concerts. Yet he fought tirelessly for the residents of Luzerne County.
Bob left the DA’s office in 1987, devoting the rest of his career to working with individuals and businesses that needed strong and smart legal guidance. He was recognized by Philadelphia Magazine as a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since 2006. Bob received awards and citations from the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Attorney General, the American Association of Justice, and Trials Lawyers Care, providing representation at no cost to victims of the 9/11 tragedy. Bob was proud to represent the Pennsylvania State Police F.O.P. O’Rourke Memorial Lodge No. 38 for more than 40 years, becoming certified as a Fraternal Order of Police attorney under the Fraternal Order of Police Legal Plan.
A committed member of St. John Bosco Parish, Bob turned to his faith in times of hardship and times of joy. He served as the Chairman of the Board of Bishop Hafey High School where his three children were students. He also worked actively with the Scranton Diocese as a member of the School Board and the Bishop’s Council.
While Bob’s work defined his contributions to his community in many ways, it was his life outside of work that brought him and his family the most joy. He was an avid runner, who for decades could be seen every morning on the roads of the Valley with his wife Sally. Bob loved the beach, finding great pleasure in reading in a beach chair alongside Sally and bodysurfing with his children in the waves of New Jersey, North Carolina, and Florida. He was joyfully competitive in family games and swimming contests, pushing everyone to be better and have more fun. He never met a thrill ride he didn’t love, the Phoenix at Knoebels and Tower of Terror in Disney World being his favorites. Bob showered his four grandchildren with love, always making visits to Nana’s and Pop’s house joyous.
Bob was the son of the late Robert J. Gillespie, Sr. and Elizabeth Campbell Gillespie. He is survived by his adored wife Sally; his children, Kelly Joseph and husband Timothy; Bob Gillespie III and wife Sara Silvestri; and Casey Gillespie and fiancé Bob Goffa; sisters Mary Gillespie; Elizabeth Gillespie and husband Philip Mazzilli; and grandchildren Anna and Alex Joseph; and Tommy and Matty Gillespie.
A public visitation will be held on Friday afternoon from 4:00-6:00 P.M. at Krapf and Hughes Funeral Home – Crematory, 530 W. Butler Drive, Drums, PA.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held Saturday morning at 10:00 A.M. at St. John Bosco Church in Conyngham. Father Ric Polmounter will preside.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you send donations to Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton or St. John Bosco Church.
Thu Dec 02 2004 – George Banks Faces Death for Cruelly Taking the Lives of 13 People
Warning to readers: Due to the nature of this crime, the following story contains images of graphic violence.
Former Luzerne County District Attorney Robert J. Gillespie Jr. vividly sees the images 22 years later:
Three women and two children dead, still sitting where they had been shot in rapid succession.
Upstairs, the body of an 11-year-old girl huddled in the corner of her bed, where she tried to shield a 1-year-old boy from the gunfire. The murderer stood on the bed to put a bullet through the infant’s head.
The first call was chilling enough: Two lay shot on a Wilkes-Barre street. But as Robert Gillespie headed to the scene where George Emil Banks began his massacre 35 years ago this week…