Rita Clara Gilles (nee LaCroix) of Lombard

Written by Brust Funeral Home on February 12th, 2018

GillesAmerican FlagRita Clara Gilles (nee LaCroix) passed away peacefully in her home in Lombard.

A few words that describe Rita Gilles: funny, innocent, devoted. She had an easy smile that everyone remembered. She was a fine conversationalist and an equally good listener. People who interacted with her felt her innate goodness.

She was born Rita Clara LaCroix in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 4, 1921. She was the loving daughter of Clara (nee Trudeau) and Wilford LaCroix. She was the youngest of seven children. Her early life in Kansas City was full of the childhood joys of swinging on swings, climbing trees, and riding bikes. She had wonderful winters of snow sledding, snowman building, and midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Her brother nicknamed her Skinny. Her parents passed when Rita was a teenager and she moved to Marion, Indiana where she worked for the Anaconda Wire and Cable Company.

Rita enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a WAVE at the start of WWII. She was a Yeoman Third Class, and earned an honorable discharge in January of 1946. During this time, she met and married Arthur Jack Gilles, Jr. Together, they had eight children. Their first son, Gary, died when he was a baby but Rita is survived by her loving children: Karen (David Maack), Terry (Sheila), Sharon, Linda (Keith Zirbes), Pam (Jack Zirbes), Jeanne (Jon Hostetler), and Aimee (Jeff Shellberg). Jack dedicated himself to providing for his family while Rita devoted herself to her kids. She was always there when her kids needed her. She was never quick to anger or judge. Rita was her children’s strongest ally and biggest supporter. As well as maintaining a household full of rambunctious kids, she also supported her husband in his work. Jack was a retail store owner so Rita would often help out with the bookkeeping, cleaning, and cashiering of a family owned business. Her kind smile and friendly manner made her a favorite among the customers. A strong part of Rita’s life was her devotion to her faith. She was a devout Catholic and would attend daily mass. The Catholic Church was her rock. It was as much a part of her as breathing. Rita read her daily prayer book and said the rosary with reverence. When her children were young, she was a Catholic school volunteer. She was a Eucharistic minister and administered communion to the sick and homebound. She would wash and iron the vestments of the priests and diligently assemble the weekly bulletins.

Without a doubt, Rita dedicated her life to the caring of others. As her kids grew up and became parents of their own, she had enough room in her very large heart for more. She was always available to care for the ten grandchildren she adored so much. She was a very loving, involved grandma to her grandchildren Jillian, Tony, Neal, Justin, Marcus, Michael, Claire, Anna, Matthew, and Nathan. If she was babysitting, more likely than not, she would be on the floor playing games or building a tower of cards. She was never too grown up to hang out with the kids. She had the skills of a journeyman in Lego construction. She could serve a ping pong ball with deadly accuracy. She demonstrated cutthroat competitive skills in foosball. She was the skinniest “Minnesota Fats” in a pool game. And she had Ringo Starr like abilities as a Rock Band drummer. What more could you ask for in a babysitter… or a grandma???

Rita was always up for fun. If there was a group of people talking, she was always in the thick of it. She was ready with an amusing quip or a silly face. She’d rather laugh and joke around than sit and mope. She liked to make others laugh and feel good as well. She loved to talk to people, whether at church or while taking her daily walk with her beloved dog.

Speaking of which… you were a very lucky canine if your owner was Rita. You were pampered and petted, as well as hugged and walked regularly, no matter the weather. She had several dogs throughout her life and they were a constant source of joy to Rita. She loved to talk about her dog, but she was equally interested in hearing about the adventures of other people’s dogs.

When Rita was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, almost seven months ago, she and her family prepared for the worst. But God blessed Rita and her family by letting her have many of those days to spend with her loved ones pain free. Throughout this time, she was determined to be strong and as independent as possible. And she was strong until the end.

Having been the last surviving child of the LaCroix family, she is now reunited with her mother and father, her siblings, her husband, and baby Gary. At the age of 96, she has been waiting to see them and the Holy Family for some time. She is finally at peace.  Rita was the sunshine of the Gilles family.

Visitation will be held on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 3:00 to 8:00 PM at Brust Funeral Home, 135 S Main St., Lombard, IL. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Thursday, February 15, 10:00 AM at Sacred Heart Church, 114 S Elizabeth St., Lombard, IL. Interment will be at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, IL.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105.

The Gilles Family would like to express their gratitude to the team at Heartland Hospice, especially, Michelle, for their gentle care and kindness.


2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Sophie Byrnes says:

    To the Gilles Family,

    I read with great interest of the lovely great Mother and Grandmother you all had. So sorry for the loss of one so very dear and special. Thank you for sharing such loving memories of a beautiful woman who loved all, her God, her family, and life.

    You were truly blessed with her.

    With sympathy,

    Sophie & Andrew Byrnes
    St. John the Evangelist SPRED Family
    Streamwood, IL

  2. Ivana Falls says:

    I give you my sincere apologies for your loss, Gilles family. Something that helps me to cope, is thinking about the hope the Bible promises us at John 5:28,29. It says in part, “Do not be amazed…all those in the memorial tombs…will come out.” This means, there is going to be a time when our loved ones will be back with us again. The conditions here, will also be better. For example, at Revelation 21:3,4, God promises to get rid of tears, pain and death, and this is not the only promise about better conditions. I would be glad to share those with you, if you email me. In the meantime, God reassures us at Isaiah 41:10, that we need not be afraid or be anxious, for He will help us to endure. I hope you find comfort from reading these scriptures.

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