With her husband by her side, Debra Iwalani Gillis, 50, of Boulder, Wyoming passed away Thursday February 13, 2020 at the Huntsman’s Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. As with all things in her life, Debbie gave it everything she had, went the distance and then pushed for a little bit more.
Born November 28, 1969 in Tacoma Washington, Debbie was welcomed into the loving and awaiting arms of Steven Dennis Wilson and Rhea Allred Wilson. Her early years were spent growing up in Virginia, Missouri, Oklahoma, and eventually North Logan, Utah, where she graduated from Sky View High School and excelled in cross country and track and field. Debbie graduated from Utah State University and began her teaching career by teaching PE at Oakwood Elementary and coaching track at the junior high school in Preston, Idaho. She loved that she got to play with kids all day and get paid. In 2002, Debbie was recognized as USU’s Outstanding Alumni K-12 teacher and shortly thereafter was recognized as the Physical Educator of the Year by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
Except for her love of ice cream, fitness and living healthy were paramount to Debbie, and she lived to inspire others to live accordingly. Debbie was often referred to as the Energizer Bunny and there was no time for sitting on the sidelines.
For many years, her summers were spent in the shadows of the Tetons in Jackson, Wyoming where she worked as a camp counselor at the R lazy S dude ranch providing activities and games for kids. It was in Wyoming that Debbie finally found the love of her life, Joe Gillis. Debbie and Joe were married in a private, romantic mountain ceremony, May 28, 2010 and Sublette County became her home. She loved the land, wildlife, activities and people of Wyoming. There was always time for another hill to climb, aerobics class to teach, race to run, mile to walk, house to clean, deal to find, friend to visit and child to — even on the darkest days. Deb earned her Master’s degree and additional endorsement from Virginia Tech that allowed her to become a classroom teacher. Deb became a teacher at Big Piney elementary and loved her classroom and those kids!
Above all, Debbie was loyal and lived with integrity. Anyone that knew her felt her kindness and knew her love for the things that brought her the most joy: Joe, family, friends, kids, and her love for the Savior. As an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, her testimony was sure. She endured to the end and was faithful in her words, actions, and beliefs. Debbie was giving and often went above and beyond. She always thought of others and had a way of making them feel special through countless cards, notes, visits, and calls. She lived each day to the fullest and with a purpose. She will be greatly missed.
Debbie was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by her husband Joe Gillis, Boulder, Wyoming and siblings Dan (Patricia) Wilson, Logan; Dennis (Lisa) Wilson, West Jordan; Drew (Michelle) Wilson, Hyrum; Everett (Tifannie) Wilson, Logan; Trina Wilson, Logan, and many nieces and nephews. The family would like to thank the community for the many fundraisers, support, gifts and encouragement that gave her the drive to move forward.
Funeral service will be held Saturday February 22nd at 11:00 AM at the Pinedale LDS Church. A viewing will take place Friday evening February 21st from 5:00 to 7:00 PM at the church and one hour prior to the service on Saturday morning from 10:00 to 11:00 AM. Condolences can be left at covillfuneralhome.com