Roger Gillespie: business owner, community baseball supporter

From running a local meat shop that employed student workers to being the Legion Baseball manager for 25 years, Roger Gillespie has done it all and touched many lives along the way. Both student baseball players and coaches reminisce on how Gillespie has influenced them to be better men and citizens.
Gillespie passed away from cancer on April ninth, but the last thing he wanted before his passing was to watch a baseball game. Coach Mark George asked his current high school baseball team and some alumni to play a game of catch in Gillespie’s front yard.
“I cannot take credit for the idea, the family asked if we could do it. His nephew, Josh Gillespie called me one day and informed me that Roger was declining,” George said. “The last time that I talked to Roger he sounded upbeat and was on his way to another chemo treatment. The next day Josh called and informed me that Roger was done with chemo. He told me what he wanted and I proceeded to gather people and organize to help create one final baseball experience for Roger.”
Junior baseball players Ben Schmidt and Griffin Davis remember Gillespie doing most of the “behind the scenes” organization for the baseball team. Schmidt says that Gillespie went out and got donations for the baseball team so the players would not have to pay the majority of their own fees.
“He [Gillespie] was a huge part of baseball in the community and he did a lot of the behind the scenes things and he did a lot of stuff that people didn’t see, but without him, Newton baseball would not be where it is right now,” Davis said.
Both Schmidt and Davis met Gillespie when they started playing high school baseball, but George has known Gillespie for much longer. George recalls his first time meeting Gillespie when he was hired to coach the Newton baseball team. Despite having a disagreement over how “young and arrogant” George was, they built an everlasting relationship through the management of the baseball program.
“Roger was very protective of the summer program, as he should have been, and was not going to fold to a young, disrespectful outsider. In the end, Roger and I were able to come together and work things out for the better,” George said. “From that first conversation to the many conversations over 16 years, Roger and I formed a close friendship that revolved around serving young baseball players.”
Gillespie was able to inspire tons of young baseball players, including Davis and Schmidt. They both describe Gillespie as a man who not only loved the game of baseball but loved teaching the baseball players how to be good men.
“He [Gillespie] inspired a lot of us to be that humble person that will do anything for someone else and put everything that you need to do last,” Schmidt said. “He was always there for us and always trying to give us like the best quality stuff that he could, no matter what. He didn’t take any of the earnings that he got for himself.”
George said that he is not sure he would still be coaching today without the mentoring of Gillespie. Gillespie taught George that not every game is about winning and losing\; games should not be taken personally. George said that Gillespie’s humbleness rubbed off on him as both a coach and a person and that he is forever grateful to have a friend like Roger.
“Roger was special because outside his devotion to God and his family, he loved the kids and the town of Newton. He was a servant leader who never asked for a thank you or payment for all the sacrifices he made for young people to play baseball,” George said. “Through his humility, sacrifice, gentleness, and commitment to Newton he moved the needle for a lot of people in our community. He lived a modest lifestyle as he provided good food and conversation for years out of his little store on Broadway.”
Not only did Gillespie manage legion baseball, but he ran his own local business in town called Gillespie Meats. Gillespie offered high school students, such as sophomore Alex Vidacs, jobs at his shop.
“He [Gillespie] was one of the best men I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working for,” Vidacs said. “He was one of the most generous people I know and you could tell just from meeting the man that he was happy with everything that he did for the community and his business.”

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