Rufus Thomas Gillam, a very special human being, was born on May 7, 1920 in Montrose, Michigan, the son of Orie and Pearl (McCombs) Gillam. His parents married on July 20, 1910. Together, they had seven children: Amber, William, Mabel, Bertha, Rufus, Ruth, and Carl. Orie took over his father’s farm on North Nichols Road in Montrose. He sold it in 1928. The Gillams then moved to a farm on Farrand Road, near Clio, Michigan, in 1929. In 1932 they moved to Pearl’s father’s farm on Sheridan Road.
Because his family moved around, Rufus attended various schools. He attended Munsell Schools in Clio, 1929-1932, and graduated from 8th grade at Naismith Schools. In 1933, Rufus began attending high school at Montrose High School, but he graduated from Flushing High School in 1939 because his family had moved to Potter Road. While in high school, Rufus was a member of Future Farmers of America.
Following high school, Rufus was inducted into the U.S. Army on October 11, 1941. After training at Camp Davis, N.C., he served for four years in Battery A, 305th Coast Artillery, Barrage Balloon, 1ST Platoon, Squad 1, which served in Hawaii, the Philippines, and participated in the invasion of Okinawa. He was honorably discharged from Fort Sheridan, Illinois, on October 31, 1945.
After the war, Rufus attended Flint Junior College. He later graduated from Central Michigan University (CMU) with a B.S. degree (1949) and from the University of Michigan with a M.A. degree (1953).
During 1948, Rufus also worked as a counselor at the Boys’ Republic, a self governing school for delinquent boys near Farmington, Michigan. There he became a trusted friend and mentor of students, some of whom continued corresponding with him after he left the school.
Rufus then began a career in education in Michigan. He taught as a biology and science teacher at Oxford High School, 1949-1952. From 1952 to 1956, Rufus taught 5th-6th grades at Manchester Elementary School and served as the Intermediate Supervisor of Manchester Public Schools. Rufus worked as the Principal for kindergarten through 6th grades at Tecumseh Public Schools, 1956-1968. He also taught Special Education, 1968-1985, for Livingston County Special Education in Howell.
Over the years, Rufus received a number of awards for outstanding teaching and volunteering efforts. He was active with the Fresh Air Boys Camp and the HOSTS/Mentor Program.
On December 29, 1956, Rufus married Wilma Speigelberg, the daughter of Ervin and Edith (Feldkamp) Speigelberg of Manchester, Michigan. Wilma was born on September 24, 1925. She graduated from Manchester High School and earned a registered degree in Nursing. She worked for 35 years as a R.N. at St. Joseph Hospital in Ann Arbor.
The couple did not have any children.
When Wilma and Rufus retired, they lived near Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the summer and in Florida in the winter. In DeSoto County, Florida, Rufus volunteered at West Elementary School. The Gillams were active members of the Montrose Historical Association.
On November 4, 2005, Wilma died. She had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for 20 years and had experienced a completely debilitating stroke in 2003. Rufus Thomas Gillam, 88, passed away October 30, 2008 at Chelsea Retirement Community. (This information is from the collection.)