GILLIS, Henry Lee, Jr., passed, unexpectedly, at the age of 64 on Sunday, August 8, 2021, at his residence in Alexandria, VA. He was born on May 24, 1957, the second child and first son of Henry Lee Gillis, Sr., and Geneva G. Tucker Gillis of Alexandria, Virginia.
His parents named him after his father, but early in life someone also coined an accepted nickname for him. He was known to his immediate and extended families as Li’l Bro; the little brother to first-born, Brenda Gillis. Through the years Henry would become big brother to five additional sibling friends and playmates—four sisters and his only brother and best friend. He would continue to be called Li’l Bro by his siblings and a close-knit cohort of older and younger cousins until later in his adult life when everyone opted to recognize his birth name.
Henry graduated from T.C. Williams High School (recently renamed Alexandria City High School) in 1975. He immediately began working a brief job with the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company (C&P) but decided against climbing poles for a living. With high school and his first job experience in the rearview mirror of his mint-colored Mustang, Pony, Henry decided to join the United States Army. He served in the Army for 11 years and received many honors including specialist commendation in marksmanship for rifle M16 and hand grenade. His second career choice as a Uniformed Security Officer where he continued work to serve and protect was his strength. He worked for several government contractors—Alutiiq ASS, Trinity Protection Services, and DPC Security to name a few, and Diversified Protective Services until his death. Though his scheduled shifts were night and weekends, he continued to stay connected to the family and made time for his varied interests.
Henry was a music enthusiast and self-taught musician who enjoyed playing his extensive collection of drums, keyboards, and electric guitars during his off-duty hours. His anthology of fine musical instruments is jaw dropping, akin to that of the collection of one of his favorite artists—Prince. Henry was also extraordinarily humorous without even trying to entertain and could easily set or change the tone of the room. He was known to abruptly end phone calls by announcing that he no longer had time to talk and was hanging up to get his “beauty rest”, extending his signature “a tout a l’heure” (the French derivative of see you later) right before delivering a click to the caller. Henry was so exhaustingly funny and uplifting that it was difficult to be upset with him.
While he was by no means perfect, he was perfectly Henry. He was a son, brother, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, and friend beloved by many; his absence will be felt by all who were fortunate enough to know him. While his death leaves us devastated and unfulfilled, we are blessed to have had Henry as a loved one.
Henry is preceded in death by his parents, Henry and Geneva Gillis; sister, Brenda Louise Gillis Nelson (Dana and Frederick); maternal grandparents, Joshua Tucker and Marie Carter Tucker; and paternal grandparents, John Mitchell and Maggie Louise Gillis. He is survived by two children, Henry Lee Gillis, III (Viviana) and Geneva Desiree Gillis (Julius, Caden, Tristan, Jeremiah); one brother, Keith Gillis (Robin, Daynen, Erinn), and sisters Shirley Gillis Camper (Danielle) and Annette, Eva (Alvin), and Frances Gillis (Gena); and a host of additional nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephews, cousins, and dear friends too numerous to name individually.
A celebration of his life service will be held on Thursday, August 19, 2021, at the Everly-Wheatley Funeral Home Chapel. Burial will occur at Mount Comfort Cemetery in Alexandria, VA, immediately following the service.
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