Gordon Clifford Gilfilian from Essex Junction, Vt, 85, passed away peacefully on Thursday August 27, 2020 with his son Mike and daughter Tracy at his bedside. Gordon was a man who was loved and respected by just about everyone. He was the kindest of men with a big wide smile, twinkling eyes, and an easy warm laugh. By profession he was an educator and a coach. He was also a lifelong dancer and skier. He suffered a stroke 12 years ago, and after that time, his health gradually declined. One thing that was really remarkable about him and one of his greatest lessons was that as he began to lose different parts of himself and his abilities, he never lamented his fortune. Instead, he enjoyed and appreciated what he had and what was able to do. And that allowed him to remain him rich and very very special…especially to those who loved him.
He was the oldest of six children and he was often charged with the care and protection of his brothers and sisters when both his parents worked. These were the days before daycare. His strong sense of diligence, justice, and the protection of the “little guy” probably evolved as a result of this early caregiving. He knew he wanted to be a coach and teacher from the age of 12. It became a driving force for him in high school and college. His parents and his sister Joyce gave what they could to help him through college. And he had multiple jobs throughout his educational career, starting from being a newspaper boy when he was young, to highway construction, helping in the cafeteria where he earned his meals, to directing activities at summer reading camps in the Adirondacks.
He graduated Onondaga Valley Academy in 1954. He was President of his Junior HS Class, Captain of the Football Team in Senior Year. He earned his BS from Courtland State University, NY and his MS from Ithaca College, NY. He began his teaching at Lafayette Elementary School in Waterloo, NY. He continued in the Rush Henrietta School System where he coached football and started a championship wrestling program. He won a New York State Coaches Honor Award in 1969. He was inducted into the New York State Section Five Regionals Hall Of Fame in February 1995.
Gordon’s demeanor was one of gentle exuberance. Gentle, in that he was patient, quiet, and kind. He could really listen. Attentively. Completely. Without interrupting. Looking deeply into your eyes. He would always respond thoughtfully and with care. He was exuberant in that he was ready to join almost any activity energetically and joyfully. He put his full self into everything he did.
He became an expert skier, participating in National championships, winning Silver in the 1991 USA Eastern Regionals Masters Alpine Championship and Bronze in the 1996 Bristol Mountain Giant Slolum. There were also medals in track and field. He won Bronze in the 1991 1500M Race Walk in the New York State Parks Senior Games; Gold in the 2007 Washington State Senior Games in the 5K and 1500 meter Race Walk. He danced East Coast Swing, West Coast Sing, Waltz, Salsa, Merenge, and his favorite of all, the Argentine Tango.
He met his wife, Sue, in 2000 in Buenos Aires on a trip to study Argentine Tango. He moved to Washington State to be with Sue while he also explored the mountains of the West, namely Mt Hood, Oregon. They never separated from then on. They married in September 2005. It was a love story for the ages.
Gordon was pre deceased by his parents, Clifford Henry and Rowena Mae Gilfilian, and by his brothers, Earl and Jerry. He is survived by his devoted and heartbroken wife, Sue Firman; her son Gabriel Firman, Gordon’s daughter Tracy Giuffrida and son Mike Gilfilian; Gordon’s sisters, Joyce McDonough, Karen Knapp, and Judy Bryant; by their grandchildren Matthew and Andrew Gilfilian and Stephanie Giuffrida, and Bella, Sadie, and Lucy Firman; his great grandchildren, Maddie and Jackson Gilfilian, and by many loving nieces and nephews.
In his final months he was dearly cared for by the Ethan Allen Residence and the Bayada Hospice team. Their many kindnesses will always be remembered. He had a lot of fun there, and raised a little hell too. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate any donations in his memory be given to the Ethan Allen Residence at 1200 North Avenue, Burlington, Vt. 05408
At this time, due to Covid 19, only private services are planned.