Roger Gillispie, longtime owner of Gillispie Meats and organizer of youth baseball teams in Newton, died April 8 of cancer.
"He was a pillar of this community. The volunteering he has done for so many," said his nephew, Josh Gillispie. "The chances he has given high school kids here at the shop. He was a genuine person."
Roger Gillispie founded his business on East Broadway in 1997. He became known for homemade ham loaf and bierocks. He also became known for hiring high school students and mentoring them at the shop. When he was diagnosed with cancer and could no longer run the business, his nephew stepped forward — with no hesitation — to keep it open.
"I will carry his legacy on, and everything he has built here in Newton with the business," Josh said. "I wish I could have done it under different circumstances."
Roger was also known for baseball — something for which he had a passion. He served as the business manager for the Newton Knights, both the junior and senior division teams of American Legion Baseball, for more than 25 years. Roger also spent about six years helping with Babe Ruth baseball in Newton.
In 2014, one of the baseball diamonds at Centennial Park was named in his honor.
Surprised and unexpected," Roger Gillispie said in 2014. "It’s not something I, at all, strived for. I am humbled and I almost feel embarrassed."
Gillispie had a short baseball career, playing in youth leagues.
"I never played high school baseball," he said in 2014. "I had a job when I was in school. I started playing slow pitch. I learned more about baseball from guys playing slow pitch. I played for more than five decades — ’60s through 2000s."
Gillispie Field became the fifth named field in the city — joining Curtis Fischer Field (the football-soccer stadium), Klein-Scott Field (the main baseball field in Newton), Kenny Williams Field (the former Centennial diamond 1) and Dwayne Kelsch Field (the softball diamond at Athletic Park).
This spring, as Gillispie’s health deteriorated and high school baseball games were canceled because of COVID-19, a group of baseball players spearheaded by Josh Gillispie and Newton High School coach Mark George organized a game in Roger Gillispie’s front yard.
"I couldn’t let him go without seeing a little more baseball," Josh said. "We had a guy dressed as an umpire, and kids play in the front yard. He got to see a little bit of baseball before he died."
That came on the same night as "Honk For Roger," community members organized a cruise past his home to show support for a man who had given much to the community.
"From our family, to the public, thank you for all the support and prayers. It means a lot to us," Josh said.
Roger L. Gillispie was born July 12, 1952, in Newton to James and Audrey (Kennedy) Gillispie. He married Peggy Warner Aug. 25, 1973. He was a member of St. Mary Catholic Church in Newton.
He was a 1970 graduate of Newton High School and attended Wichita State University. From 1973 to 1976 he worked as a USDA meat inspector, purchasing Farrell’s market on W. First Street in Newton in 1976. The community grocery store remained open until 1989. He later served as the manager of YB Meats in Wichita from 1991 to 1997, before opening Gillispie Meats in on E. Broadway in Newton.
Gillispie was an active member of the Knights of Columbus for more than 40 years where he has served as secretary and treasurer as well as other positions.
He is survived by his wife, Peggy; mother, Audrey Stucky, of Newton; son Aaron and his wife, Mandy Gillispie, and their children Brennan, Jalyn and Ty, of Andover; brother Robert and his wife, Becky, of Newton; and sister Kristie and her husband, Brian Stubby, of Newton.
Private family committal will be in St. Mary Catholic Cemetery with a Memorial Mass scheduled later this spring or early summer.
Memorials are suggested to American Legion Baseball or Knights of Columbus in care of Petersen Funeral Home.