Leo John Gillen was born on July 22, 1931 at Saint Joseph Hospital in Mitchell, Davison County, SD to Peter Mathew Gillen and Margaret “Elvira” (Bisenius) Gillen. He spent the next 20 years living by Platte Lake southwest of the town of White Lake, Aurora County, SD.
His mother died tragically at the age of 40 from the result of a house fire when Leo was 7 years old. She managed to get 2 children (Peter and Joe) safely out of the house but she herself died days later as the result of smoke inhalation. The other children, Don, Norbert, Leo, James, were all in school in White Lake at the time of the tragedy.
Leo was born and christened Francis Leo Gillen but when he started to attend school in the 1st grade he named himself Leo John Gillen. He attended Saint Peter’s Catholic school in White Lake during the first grade. When the private school closed that year, he attended the public school in White Lake until graduating from high school. After graduation, he moved to Dubuque, IA while attending Loras College which was a Catholic seminary. Leo joined the U.S. Army in February 1952 and was stationed in Fort Knox, KY. In October of 1952 he was transferred to Germany where he was a truck driver for the 43rd Quartermaster unit. He was honorably discharged February 1954 whereupon he returned to his home along Platte Lake.
Leo worked for his uncle, Theodore Gillen, from 1954 until 1959. In the winter time Leo would trap muskrats as a second income, walking the shore of Platte Lake and setting traps. Several times he fell into the frigid water up to his waist. Climbing out he would walk about a mile to get home and put on dry clothes and out again he would go to finish his trap line
In the spring of 1959 he moved northwest of the town of White Lake to farm a piece of land that he rented from his two aunts (Mathilda and Mary Bisenius). Incidentally, this land was situated on the west shore of the actual lake of White Lake. Eventually, he bought the land from his aunts and started his home there. His younger brother Peter came to live with him and help him farm. Not only did Leo farm, he raised sheep, cattle, hogs and chickens. As a bachelor he became proficient at doing his own baking, cooking, and also kept a clean house. For entertainment he would play baseball on the White Lake ball team, where he was nicknamed “Bubbles” since he would be chewing bubble gum while pitching. One year his team was undefeated.
Leo was on the board of directors of the Aurora-Brule Nursing Home for 10 years. Leo J Gillen was a night youth supervisor at the Missouri River Adolescent Center in Chamberlain, SD from 1989 until 1994 where he met and fell in love with Mary Lou Wooledge Estes Allen (his second wife). Then he became a bus driver for the High School in Kimball, SD. He drove bus for the school district for 10 years and then became a night clerk at the Days Inn in Oacoma, SD and later the Super 8 in Kimball, SD. Leo gave moral support to his wife Mary when she turned the two houses they owned in Kimball into Mary’s Lodging.
Leo married Phyllis Cummins in the fall of 1974 at Saint Margaret’s Catholic Church in Kimball, SD. She brought to the union a young son of 10 years old (Jerry Mathis). They moved to Kimball, Brule County, SD 10 years later in 1984. Phyllis went to sleep in death on April 27, 1993. Leo married again on January 20, 1994 to Mary Lou Wooledge Estes Allen. They were united in marriage by the Clerk of Courts in the courthouse in Chamberlain, Brule County, SD. Mary brought to the union 2 sons (Timothy Shawn Allen, 21 years old and Andrew Alfred Allen,13 years old) and a daughter (Autumn Hope Allen, 11 years old).
In the fall of 1995 he dedicated his live to Jehovah God and stayed faithful to that vow until his death in the autumn of 2016.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his brothers (James Peter, Donald Martin, Norbert Joseph, Peter John, and Joseph William), two sisters (Mary Louise and Rose Ann), also his first wife and her son.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Lou Wooledge Estes Allen Gillen and her children: Timothy Shawn (Lori) Allen of Hermosa, SD; Andrew Allen of Mitchell, SD and Autumn Hope Allen (Elvio) Trent of Paute, Ecuador; his grandchildren Willow Amelia Rose Allen of Mitchell, SD, and (the twins) Remington Justice Allen and Rhiannon Grace Allen of Hermosa, SD. He is also survived by his baby brother Joseph (Audrey) Gillen of Sioux Falls, SD and many nieces and nephews of whom he was especially fond.