Marblehead, Ma — Commander Harold R. Gillam, a veteran of World War II and the Vietnam War, and a civil engineer, died in his sleep on November 16, 2013, joining his beloved wife, Margaret S. (Kelleher) Gillam. Known by family and friends for his faithfulness, loyalty, character, and determination, he was a good man, deeply loved and is greatly missed.
Commander Gillam is survived by two sons, Joseph W. Gillam of Ithaca, N.Y., and Harold R. Gillam III of Athol, Mass.; and his daughter-in-law, Tabitha F. Gillam and three dear grandchildren, Grace, Griffin and Grant. He is also survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Jack and Nellie Gillam, of Tacoma, Wash.; his nephew, John Robert Gillam; his niece, Nellie Jo Burns; and his sister-in-law, Joanna Kelleher, widow of brother-in-law, Joseph W. Kelleher.
Born on January 29, 1925, in Tacoma, Wash., he was the eldest son of Texas native and World War I veteran, Harold R. Gillam (1896-1931), and Minnesota native and registered nurse, Josephine O. (Johnson) Gillam (1896-1960). A Lutheran, he was raised during the Depression, developing discipline by necessity. Abel Rafsøl Johnson, his maternal grandfather, who emigrated from Norway to build a life in the United States, was his role model.
He fell in love with the sea and its ships. On August 17, 1942, he began his service in the U.S. Navy. He was a gunner’s mate on the USS Baldwin (DD-624) and USS President Monroe (AP-104), participating in the Gilbert Islands invasion at Abemama and Taraw, Marshall Islands operations at Kwajalein and Eniwetok, invasion of Guam, and operations at Lingayen Gulf and Iwo Jima. He served as a boating officer on landing craft for several landings during the Pacific campaign. He was awarded the World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal (Navy) with one Bronze Star, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one Silver Star, Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation, and Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Star. From 1948 to 1949, he served at sea as a turret captain on the USS Macon (CA-132), USS Des Moines (CA-134) and USS Salem (CA-139). On the Salem, he was a member of the crew responsible for commissioning the world’s last all-gun heavy cruiser.
He petitioned Evergreen State Lodge No. 68 in Washington for membership on February 4, 1948, was elected on April 7, 1948, and was raised to the degree of Master Mason on January 10, 1949. He was a 65-year member of the Lodge.
In 1949, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve (USNR), and subsequently attended the University of New Mexico and University of California-Los Angeles. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of Washington in 1954. While working as a civil engineering assistant for the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, he earned a Master of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of Southern California in 1957. That year, appointed Lieutenant Junior Grade in the Civil Engineering Corps (CEC), USNR, he served for two years as transportation officer and shops engineer at Naval Air Station Alameda, and was promoted to Lieutenant on September 1, 1959.
He subsequently served as public works officer for Naval Facilities at Grand Turk Islands (1959-1960), assistant public works officer and disaster control officer at Naval Station Treasure Island in San Francisco (1960-1963), and, operations officer, executive officer and disaster control officer for Mobile Construction Battalion Eight (1963-1965). He received the Antarctic Service Medal for his participation in Operation Deep Freeze, the joint-service interagency operation described by some as the world’s coolest military assignment. After Antarctica, he served as shops engineer and assistant public works officer at the Boston Navy Yard (1965-1967), during which time his secretary, Betty Ryan, introduced him to her cousin, Margaret Kelleher.
Even as he exchanged marriage vows with his bride on Thanksgiving Eve in 1966, then-Lieutenant Commander Gillam was called to duty in Vietnam, where he served as Base Development Officer for Engineering and Real Estate and Resident Officer-in-Charge of Construction for Danang West (1967-1968) – the day after his birthday marked by the Tet Offensive. For his service, he was awarded a Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon and Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Stars.
After returning from Vietnam, he was assigned to serve as Executive Officer at Pearl Harbor (1968-1971) and concluded his career in the U.S. Navy as Seabee Program Officer and Reserve Naval Construction Force Assistance Coordinator, Third Naval District, Brooklyn, New York (1971-1974). After his voluntary retirement with an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy on July 1, 1974, Commander Gillam worked as a construction engineer for Metcalf & Eddy, served as Town Engineer and Director of Public Works for the Town of Amesbury, and served as Town Engineer for the Town of Wilmington.
Appearing in Who’s Who in the East (1985-1986) and Who’s Who in the World (1987-1988), he was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, U.S. Naval Institute, Naval Historical Foundation, National Rifle Association (life member) and Shipwright Guild of New England (vice president, 1985-1986).
ARRANGEMENTS: Visiting hours will be at the Murphy Funeral Home, 85 Federal Street, corner of North Street, Salem, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., on Thursday, November 21. His funeral service will be at 11 a.m., on November 22, at Our Lady Star of the Sea, 85 Atlantic Avenue, Marblehead, birthplace of the United States Navy. Relatives and friends are most welcome to attend.
In memory of Commander Gillam, donations to the Fisher House Foundation, or Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, for the care of veterans and their families are respectfully requested in lieu of flowers. Contributions may be made, respectively, at www.fisherhouse.org and www.fallenheroesfund.org, or by checks made payable to Fisher House Foundation, Inc., 111 Rockville Pike, Suite 420, Rockville, MD 20850-5168, and Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Attn: CONTRIBUTIONS, One Intrepid Square, W. 46th Street & 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10036. For additional information, or to sign the guest book, please call 978-744-0497, or visit www.MurphyFuneralHome.com.