Warren Glen Gillies, often known affectionately as “Red”, was born on his parents’ farm near Baldur, Manitoba. Proud parents Alec and Beth (McLennan) Gillies would welcome Warren’s younger sister Eleanor two and a half years later. Shortly after Warren began attending Welsh School, Alec and Beth sold their farm, animals, and machinery, and moved to the Cleghorn house in Baldur in 1945, having bought the butcher shop, meat locker, and abattoir, which they operated until Alec’s ailing health forced them to sell in 1963.
Warren was involved in sports from an early age, although his mother had insisted that he also study piano lessons. In high school, he was team captain for football, hockey, and baseball, at which he excelled so much that he was asked to play for Belmont, and pitched them to the AA Provincial Bantam championship. Warren’s jacket from that team has been donated to the museum in Belmont.
Warren’s first real job was working at a local grocery store for his friend, Tommy Lee, where among other things, Warren ran the soda fountain and sandwich counter. Warren had wanted to be a carpenter, but the only carpenter in Baldur didn’t have enough work to justify hiring an apprentice, so after graduating high school (as class valedictorian), Warren worked briefly for Manitoba Hydro before beginning his first career, at the local Anglo service station, starting as a truck driver.
Warren would stay with the oil company until 1979, though its name would change as it continued to be bought out by larger corporations; the Gulf Oil bulk service station Warren managed in Neepawa is now Petro-Canada.
The oil company transferred Warren to new positions in different communities several times; he first came to work in Neepawa in 1961 as the new bookkeeper. He soon pitched for the Neepawa Farmers, a team he would support for the rest of his life. Warren was transferred to Portage La Prairie to manage a 24-hour service station in 1964.
Darlene Davie had known of Warren while he lived in Neepawa, but it wasn’t until they both attended a wedding unescorted in 1965 that fate intervened. After the ceremony, Warren asked Darlene if he could drive her to the wedding dance. She said “yes”, after asking permission from the couple with whom she had arrived… even though she was 23 years old.
Warren promised to visit Darlene in Neepawa every weekend, staying at the Hamilton Hotel until Darlene’s father, Bill Davie Jr., allowed Warren to stay at the farm. At that time, Darlene’s mother Eva was in the hospital with cancer, and neither she nor Warren wanted to meet the other under such circumstances. Darlene had been trying to fill her mother’s shoes as the lady of the house, caring for her father and two younger brothers, Les and Murray, who was still in school. Eva did, however, offer Darlene some advice with regard to Warren, telling her to “treat him better than your other boyfriends”. Eva died in October of 1965.
Warren always said that Darlene had proposed to him, but he made their engagement official by giving her a diamond ring on June 29th, 1967, her 25th birthday, while they were on their way to a Centennial dance at the Neepawa airport. A month and a half later, they were married in the Neepawa United Church on August 12th. The dance that followed was held in the loft of Bill Jr.’s new barn.
After marrying Warren, Darlene moved to Portage, where their first son, Alan, was born on August 1st, 1969. But Warren was transferred briefly to Roblin, only to wind up back in Neepawa in time for Neil to be born on June 27th, 1970, 2 days before Darlene’s 28th birthday. They lived near East View Lodge before buying a two-storey home on the corner of Second Avenue and Boundary Street, which Warren took to remodeling. He also curled, socialized with friends, and kept a large garden near the Gulf station.
Warren was transferred again in 1976, this time to Virden, to be the Manager of another 24-hour service station. Warren designed a house that was built for the family to live in, on a lot 3 doors down from the elementary school the boys would attend through Grade 4.
The first year in Virden, Warren’s doctor told him that he had a stomach ulcer, and as a result, Warren immediately quit smoking. But in 1977, Warren was diagnosed with pancreatitis for the first time. He spent 3 months in Brandon Hospital, and wasn’t expected to survive; he weighed 133 pounds, and spent another 3 months convalescing at home. The following year, Warren saw a pancreatic specialist in Winnipeg and spent 3 months at the Health Sciences Centre, during which a 12-hour surgery was performed… eventually; at least once, the operation was cancelled due to a lack of available blood.
Warren went back to work for Gulf. He and Darlene purchased a Starcraft tent trailer, and enjoyed camping, occasionally with Warren’s second cousin Garth Lockerby from Brandon and his family. During one of these trips, Warren and Garth decided to purchase Neepawa Tire as partners, and did so, as of Dec. 1st, 1979. They lived in what had been the home of Darlene’s grandparents, W.J. Davie Sr. and his wife May.
One of the first new employees they hired was Glenn Howe, who was 21 in 1980. Glenn still works for Neepawa Tire, and he and his wife Sharon are thought of as extended family.
In 1981, Warren had another pancreatic attack. Before being driven to Winnipeg for additional surgery by his friend Vince Martin, Warren was treated to a surprise party in his hospital room in Neepawa by several friends and relatives, much to the dismay and irritation of the nursing staff.
Darlene had been involved in the travel and insurance agency business for several years, at Shoemaker-McGillivray Insurance (later Shoemaker-Gill) in Neepawa, and Andrew Agencies in Virden, then Gill & Schmall Agencies in Neepawa again. She was then hired of Manager for Neepawa’s Chicken Corral Restaurant, before becoming the bookkeeper at Neepawa Tire Ltd. in 1985.
They had moved to their farm just north of Neepawa in 1984, a half-section of land with a creek running through it, and 60 acres of uncleared brush. A ready-to-move house was built nearby, with a separate 3-door/4-car garage. Warren would add a large machinery shed years later.
After his illness, Warren got his pilot’s license, and was a founding member of the Neepawa Flying Club, buying a used Cessna 172 with friends Ray LeSage and John Mowbray. Warren loved to fly, and annual fly-in fishing trips to Pelican Narrows became the expected norm.
In 1991, Warren purchased Garth’s interest in the tire shop, with the intention of it becoming a family business. Alan joined the company in 1992 as bookkeeper and salesman, Neil left Nick’s Repair for Neepawa Tire in 1997, as eleven of Warren’s friends had passed away that year, and Warren wanted to take a step back.
Occasional turmoil did strike the family: Alan almost died after an allergic reaction in 1985; Warren was in a horrible multi-vehicle highway accident in 1993. Even though it had not been his fault, it haunted him due to the death of a 5-year-old passenger in another vehicle. Neil was involved in an accident in front of the tire shop in 1997.
Warren had continued to be an avid sportsman, long after his days playing baseball. Through curling, he established life-long friendships in Neepawa, Portage, and Virden. He curled most on a rink with Rich Hanke and Jim Schmall, skipped first by Gord McCracken and later Roy Ewasiuk.
Warren also took up golf more seriously in his senior years, something he play by himself or with others, at home in Neepawa or while on vacation in Hawaii or Arizona.
Warren loved to travel with Darlene. During their 50 years together, they travelled throughout the United States and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Mediterranean. They spend a lot of time in Mesa, Arizona, but Warren’s favourite place was Hawaii. Their most recent trip was in September, by bus to Minneapolis to cheer for the Toronto Blue Jays as they played the Twins.
Warren was a supporter of the Neepawa Natives MJHL hockey club since the beginning, as was the entire family: Neil played for the team during the first two seasons, Darlene co-founded the original Booster Club, and Alan has been announcing games for years. Both generations have been billet families. Warren was part of the second ownership group, always bought season tickets, sponsored the team through Neepawa Tire, and continued to volunteer at 80; he was scheduled to work the door on the day he passed away. He and Darlene had sat in the same seats for 27 years.
Warren had been a member of the Lions Club while in Virden and in Neepawa, but he and the entire family joined United Commercial Travelers in 1990, and both Warren and Darlene would become high-ranking officers (at different times) within the fraternal benefit society.
Beginning with renovations to the home at 2nd and Boundary, Warren’s early longing to practice carpentry and woodworking became his most fervent hobby. After moving to Aspen Lea in 2011 and selling the farm in 2012, and his workshop and machinery shed along with it, Warren built a single-vehicle garage-sized workshop on the west side of Neepawa Tire’s parking lot, and there he built wooden table games, mainly for friends, and small items for Alan’s store, where he also designed and built an insulated recording studio and part of one of the showrooms. He also built a tack room in Neil and Lisa’s barn.
Warren’s greatest sense of pride was his family. He adored Darlene, supported Alan and Neil both in their chosen sports, hobbies, and careers, and doted on Neil and Lisa’s children, Shelby and Braden, his grandchildren, as he and Darlene endeavoured to attend every possible rodeo and hockey game and everything else possible.
Warren is survived by his wife of 50 years, Darlene; his sons Alan and Neil (Lisa); grandchildren Shelby and Braden, his sister Eleanor (Ted), and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins, and countless thousands of friends.
Charitable donations may be made to:
Heart & Stroke Foundation of Manitoba
6 Donald Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3L 0K6,
Beautiful Plains Community Foundation
Box 486, Neepawa, Manitoba R0J 0T0,