A local couple who base their 50-year happy marriage on Christian values, was recently honored by Bishop Arthur Serratelli at this year’s Catholic Diocese of Paterson Vivere Christus Est awards ceremony at Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Paterson.
Patricia and Peter Gillen Jr. of the Echo Lake community received a brass medal embossed with the diocesan crest on the obverse and a portrait of the cathedral.
They also received a certificate of honor.
They are lifelong members of St. Joseph R. C. Church. Gillen has served as an usher at church services since his appointment by the late Rev. Cornelius Kelly. OFM, in the 1950s.
The award received by the Gillens is given “to acknowledge the valor and importance of the laity and express gratitude and appreciation to those who unselfishly give of themselves for building God’s Kingdom.”
A reception for the couple and honorees from other diocesan parishes, parishioners and friends, was held at Bishop Rodimer Center following a prayer service in the cathedral on Sept. 8.
Gillen, elected as a Township of West Milford councilman for four terms (1975-1987), worked for over 50 years as a crane operator in New York City (1955-2005).
His projects included work on the original World Trade Center and lower level of the George Washington Bridge (1959-60).
He also was a West Milford special police officer for 25 years (1968-1993) and dean of Passaic County Democratic Committee (55 years) 1964-2019).
Patricia (“Pat”) was a stay at home mom who was rarely at home if her three children were somewhere else.
She did so much volunteerism at St. Joseph Parochial School that some people thought she was a member of the school staff.
Before marriage, she was a Wall Street secretary.
The Gillen children are Peter J. Gillen III, Mary Ellen Gillen and Ryan James Gillen, and all were born at Chilton Memorial Hospital.
Peter J. Gillen Jr. was born in April 1938 and is a lifelong resident of his community.
Patricia M. Ryan, his wife, was born in February 1941 in Brooklyn New York. They were married at her parish church in Brooklyn on June 22, 1968.
The couple’s connections to their Irish heritage run deep.
They continue to base their lives on the Catholic Church teaching handed down to them from past generations.
Along with the Gillen and Ryan connections their Irish ancestry goes back to the Slegvin, O’Donnel and Delaney families and others.
Their love of the United States and patriotism continues to be a big part of the Gillen family’s lives.
As a young man Pete served in the Army with overseas assignments in the Pacific area.
He was an assistant to US Army chaplain priests.