J.O. “Jake” Gilliam passed from this life on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, at Ardmore, Okla. He was 86 years old. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in The Chapel at Griffin~Hillcrest with services to conclude in The Chapel. Interment in Hillcrest Memorial Park, Ardmore.
He was born on March 1, 1931, in Berwyn, Okla. In 1941, the name of the town was changed to Gene Autry, Okla. He was the son of Don and Corinne Gilliam. J.O. was named after his granddad, Dr. John Overstreet Gilliam, but his legal name is initials only. When J.O. was 13 years old, he experienced pain in his right knee. His mother took him first to Dr. Von Keller in Ardmore who suspected cancer in his knee. This doctor recommended that mom take J.O. to Dr. McBride in Oklahoma City. Dr. McBride agreed with Dr. Von Keller that J.O. had bone cancer and the right leg must be amputated above the knee or the cancer would spread and eventually take J.O.’s life. But before the amputation, Dr. McBride recommended that mom take J.O. to Mayo Brothers in Rochester, Minn. J.O.’s dad had died in an auto accident in 1935 leaving his mom a widow, and she did not have the money to take him to Mayo’s in Minnesota. But the people of the town of Gene Autry took up a collection of $300 so that Corinne could take him to Mayo’s. It was there that the Mayo Brothers told mom that her trip was not necessary because Dr. McBride was one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the country and his diagnosis of the cancer in J.O. was correct. So shortly thereafter, his right leg was amputated above the knee by Dr. McBride.
Jake had always loved sports. So here he was wearing a prosthetic leg trying to play basketball and baseball. He couldn’t run, but he could skip and hop to play the game as best he could. Of course, this rough treatment of the prosthetic leg caused damage. But with the help of wire, tape and screws, the school Superintendent, Mr. James, repaired the leg many times. Even in the nursing home as dementia set in, Jake began to lose his short-term memory. He might not remember what he had just eaten for lunch 10 minutes ago, but he could tell you who won the World Series in 1948 - Cleveland Indians. Jake was a graduate of Berwyn Public School in Gene Autry.
He then attended Oklahoma A&M in Stillwater, Okla., graduating in 1953 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. As a student at Oklahoma A&M, he greatly admired the famous basketball coach, Henry Iba. He became close friends with one of the great basketball players at that time, Don Haskins. Years later, Jake would renew that friendship when Don was the coach at Texas Western, later named University of Texas, El Paso. Jake attended many games and remembers well the year that Coach Haskins’ team won the National Championship. Jake was thrilled when they made the movie “Glory Road” about the year Texas Western’s National Championship team’s starting lineup featured five black players, which had never been done in NCAA history. J.O. started his accounting career with a construction company in Ardmore. He later moved to Odessa, Texas, first as an accountant then changed to a career in marketing and sales for various companies in and around the oil business. When he lived in Odessa, Jake joined the Kiwanis Club. In time, he was put in charge of the Key Club Program. This program seeks out high school boys and provides training and opportunities in leadership, citizenship and community service. It was during this period that his brother-in-law started calling him “Jake” as a nickname and it stuck. From this point on, J.O. preferred to be called Jake. After many years in west Texas, his career in sales took him to southwest Missouri, where he was selling portable drilling rigs.
It was in the town of Branson, Miss., where he met and married Marilyn Spielman. Jake and Marilyn married on Aug. 19, 1978, in Branson. She had four sons who became J.O.’s stepsons. They are Timothy J. Spielman, Allen D. Spielman, Matthew N. Spielman and Bernard E. Spielman. In time, Jake’s career took him to the Tulsa, Okla., area where he was marketing manager for Spence Drilling Company in Glenpool, Okla., for many years. During this time period, Jake and Marilyn were active members of The First United Methodist Church of Bixby, Okla. Marilyn died on Dec. 26, 2004, and is buried in Hillcrest Memorial Park in Ardmore. There is a plot next to Marilyn reserved for Jake. After Marilyn passed away, Jake continued to live and work in Glenpool. When he reached retirement age, he moved to Ardmore, Okla., on June 6, 2009. Jake became affiliated with The First United Methodist Church of Ardmore. Jake’s home then became The Elmbrook Suites, an assisted living facility in Ardmore. After several years, it was necessary for Jake to move next door to Elmbrook Home, a nursing home. In spite of many challenges and hard times, Jake was always upbeat and positive and it was often said of Jake that he made many, many, friends too numerous to count.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Marilyn; his parents; and three sisters and their husbands. Jake is survived by his four stepsons; his brother, Les Gilliam and wife, Martha; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and family members.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Cross Timbers Hospice, 207 C Street N.W., Ardmore, OK 73401.
Condolences may be left at www.griffinhillcrest.com.