Friday, May 24, 2024

Gilbert Lee Eggleston

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Gilbert Lee Eggleston, lifelong firefighter, passed away on February 17, 2024 after an intense short struggle with metastatic esophageal cancer. He died at home, as he wished, with his family by his side.

Gil was born in Susanville, CA, to parents Kenneth, a former Navy pilot, and Edna, an in-home daycare provider. He is survived by his wife of nearly 42 years, F. Margo Hornback, older brother, Kenneth, known as Kip (Sandra), of Willow, AK, and younger sister Kimberley Hoover of Citrus Springs, FL. Gil also left behind his two loving daughters, Shana Klein (Stephen) of Minneola, FL , and Heather Eggleston (David Flores), of Kirkland, WA, and three grandchildren, Elizabeth Klein, Olivia Grace Klein, and Alex Flores, as well as nephews Donnie, Matthew, Justin, and Mike, niece Kendra, and their families, his sisters in law Maureen McMahan, and Mauricia Vandegrift, and brother-in-law Bart Vandegrift, and their daughter, his niece, Blair Grimes, and her family.

Gil’s long career in fire began with the U.S. Forest Service right out of high school. He served from 1968 to 1972 in the U.S. Air Force, with overseas duty in South Korea during the Vietnam era. He then attended Lassen Community College’s fire program, but returned to USFS the next fire season.  He joined CA Division of Fire and graduated second in his class at the Academy at Ione. After CalFire, he moved to the Olympic National Forest, and there learned how to burn massive amounts of slash and made life-long friends.

Gil went to Alaska on vacation in 1979 and stayed to work for the Bureau of Land Management as a Helitack Crew Boss. He met Margo in Galena in 1981 and they married in 1982. Gil became Assistant Fire Management Officer in the Upper Yukon Zone, based at Fort Yukon. In 2001 he graduated from USC with a Certificate in Aviation Safety. He became deeply involved in aviation management.and ended his BLM career as State Aviation Manager for all government owned or contracted aircraft and operations.

Leaving Alaska, Gil served one year with FEMA administering fire contracts to WA rural fire departments statewide, then retired from federal service. As he had several winters of volunteer service but didn’t feel done with fire, Gil applied for and was selected as Assistant Chief of Chelan County Fire District 3 in Leavenworth, on the condition that he could maintain his wildland fire qualifications.  Through eleven seasons at CCFD3, he was twice selected as Firefighter or Officer of the Year and enjoyed deployments with the Oregon/Washington Type II Team. During that time he built two fire engines from the frame out, one of which is still in use. He retired fully when he learned of his diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease in 2015.

In 2009, Gil and Margo completed their new home, The Roadhouse, named for homes along the Alcan Highway that took in weary travelers. Over the years The Roadhouse welcomed many family and friends. That tradition continues and Gil’s presence always will be felt and missed.

Margo thanks the family members who cared for Gil, Hospice of Confluence, CCFD3, and the Parkinson’s group Rock Steady, for their support.