Ernest Wilson Gill, 87, service station owner

August 24, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Ernest Wilson Gill, the former owner of a Ruxton service station and an antique car collector whose vintage 1912 Packard roadster was a fixture on area roads and at the annual Towson Fourth of July Parade, died of an aneurysm Wednesday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. He was 87.

Mr. Gill, who lived for many years on Ivy Hill Road in Cockeysville, was born and raised in Ruxton, the youngest of 10 brothers and sisters whose parents owned and operated Gill's Ice Co.

By the time he was 11, he stood 6 feet tall and was driving and maintaining the business' single white Model-A Ford panel truck and hoisting on his shoulder 100-pound cakes of ice which he delivered to houses in Riderwood and Ruxton.

FOR THE RECORD - The obituary of Ernest Wilson Gill in yesterday's editions misstated the name of the ship that he used to transport his antique cars to England. It was the RMS Queen Mary.
The Sun regrets the errors.

The Towson High School graduate developed an inclination for automobile repair early, and after being drafted into the Army in 1940, he was sent to England where he maintained military vehicles. He also landed with his unit on June 7, 1944, at Normandy, where he was responsible for making sure that vehicles kept operating.

After being discharged with the rank of sergeant in 1945, he returned to Baltimore and went to work as a mechanic for his brother, who owned Gill's Garage on West Joppa Road in Riderwood.

In 1948, he bought Ruxton Esso, now the Ruxton Service Center Inc., on Bellona Avenue, a business he operated until retiring in 1983, when he sold it to David A. Bowerman, its present owner.

"Ernie was a born mechanic. He could tear down an engine and rebuild it without any problems," said Mr. Bowerman, who was taught his trade by Mr. Gill.

"He was a very genial fellow and patient teacher, considering I did a lot of stupid things in those early years," he said, laughing.

Bud Miller, who has owned Ruxton Mobil Service since 1947 and a friendly competitor, said, "He was one great guy. He liked helping people. If someone was in trouble, he was always there to help them."

Mr. Miller said that Mr. Gill was so successful with cars because he had "grown up with them" and, despite being a competitor, didn't mind lending a hand when needed.

"We helped one another. I'd go to his place, or he'd come to mine," he said.

"He was always bringing me vegetables. The day before he died, he came in with a big bag of apples. Sometimes he'd bring me a bag of corn. That's the kind of guy he was," said Mr. Miller.

Mr. Gill's automotive passions spilled over to antique automobiles. He owned a 1912 midnight blue Packard roadster and a 1912 Model-T Ford Depot Hack.

He married Althea Garner in 1945. The couple often dressed in vintage clothing while driving and appearing in local parades. She died last year.

The couple motored up Pikes Peak four times, crossed the country four times and added 150,000 miles to the vintage Packard. They drove the Model-T from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Ore., one summer. They even loaded the cars aboard the HMS Queen Mary and motored around England.

"I think the Packard may have been owned by Albert Hutzler. Anyway, when on the tour, Ernie helped take care of everyone else's car. He was meticulous when it came to working on them," said Mr. Bowerman.

Last month, Mr. Gill steered the Packard along the route for the Towson Fourth of July parade.

Mr. Gill was a longtime communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Texas, Baltimore County.

A Roman Catholic prayer service will be offered at 11 a.m. today at Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home, 6500 York Road, Rodgers Forge.

Mr. Gill is survived by many nephews and nieces.

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