By C.J. LovelaceNovember 20, 2019
FORT DETRICK, Md. - A smile that could light up a room, an infectious laugh and a kind-hearted person who would never hesitate to help others.
That's how coworkers of Gillis M. Bolden Jr. are remembering the 54-year-old, who died unexpectedly on Saturday, Nov. 16 in Frederick, Md.
"Every Soldier in the last couple years that has come through (the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency), they know Gillis," said Maj. Jonathan Williams, chief of USAMMA's medical fielding division. "He's definitely a great loss to the agency."
News of Bolden's untimely passing spread quickly throughout the Army Medical Logistics Command and USAMMA, one of the AMLC's direct reporting units. Bolden had worked as a civilian human resources specialist for USAMMA since 2016.
Bolden, who served over 20 years in the Army, was often the first person a new Soldier coming to USAMMA at Fort Detrick.
"He would drop anything he had to do to make sure the Soldiers were taken care of," said Capt. Ivette Daley, detachment commander for USAMMA. "He was that type of person that if I needed something, if anybody needed something, he was there for them."
Daley was that new Soldier back in March 2019. Bolden's first contact with Daley was an email welcoming her as she transitioned from Fort Stewart in Georgia.
Daley said her relationship with Bolden and his partner, Lydia, quickly grew after she arrived at Fort Detrick.
"He was like my best friend here. He took me everywhere," Daley said. "If you saw Gillis and Lydia, you saw me with them. If you saw me, you saw Gillis. That's just how they took me in as part of their family."
Bolden, a Frederick resident, retired from the Army as a non-commissioned officer in human resources.
In 2004, he joined the ranks of civilian staff at Fort Detrick, first working for the Military Personnel Division. He left the post for about five years to work in local law enforcement, but later returned to continue his career in human resources.
Daffay Auguillard, a human resources clerk at MPD who worked with Bolden, described him as professional and respectful in the workplace, but also funny and a pleasure to be around.
She said she would most miss Bolden's ability "to change the world with laughter."
"He would have you laughing and crying at the same time," Auguillard said. "He was surely the life of the office party. We never had a boring day with Gillis."
After his second stint at MPD, Bolden transferred to USAMMA in March 2016. In those three-plus years, Bolden touched many lives as he left his legacy on the organization and its people, according to his coworkers.
"His outlook on life wasn't like anybody else," said Staff Sgt. Donald Hosea, non-commissioned officer in charge for USAMMA's G-1, which oversees manpower and personnel. "He liked to smile, joke around. And he was the least negative person."
Daley shared a similar sentiment, saying no matter how hectic the work environment would get, he always lightened the mood and loved to joke around.
"He was just happy, kind," she said of Bolden. "He always had a smile on his face and it was a light-up-the-room kind of smile. ... I'd never seen him in a bad mood."
Bolden's death hit many in the AMLC and USAMMA Family particularly hard, Williams said, primarily because of the impact he made through his personal interactions and relationships with everyone he met.
Like Daley and others, Williams shared a special bond with Bolden.
"I'm also a minister at First Missionary (Baptist Church) and he would come out to hear my sermons and support me," Williams said. "He was just a great friend."
Williams will officiate Bolden's funeral service on Friday, Nov. 22 at First Missionary Baptist Church in Frederick, starting at 11 a.m. The family will receive friends from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21 at the Keeney and Basford Funeral Home.
Daley recalled Bolden's love for exercising and coaching his sons' sports teams, but also chowing down on some Old Bay chicken wings and enjoying margaritas.
"And he had impeccable fashion," she said, cracking a smile.
Daley remembered a recent work trip where she, Bolden and others took some time to hike in the mountains near Ogden, Utah. Despite his strict gym regimen, Bolden seemed to prefer letting others in the group lead the way that day.
"I was like, 'C'mon Gillis, you go to the gym every day,'" Daley laughed, adding that she nicknamed him "Mo," short for molasses. "I would always have to tell him to hurry up. ... I think he was just enjoying the scenery."
Maybe it was the thin air in the Utah mountains, but maybe it was simply just the way Bolden lived his life - taking it all in, enjoying the little things and, most importantly, cherishing the people and friendships he made along the way.
"All the stories you hear about him, they are good stories," Williams said. "He enjoyed each day and respected all people. He was always quick to lend a helping hand."