Celebration of life services for William S. Gatlos Sr. of Seymour are set for 10 a.m. Thursday, July 30, 2020, in the Seymour Nazarene Church.
William S. Gatlos Sr. was born in Philadelphia, Pa., on Oct. 1, 1940. He had a love for firefighting at a young age.
To join the East Whiteland Fire Company in 1955, when the company acquired its first engine, you had to be 21 years old. Bill and his friends were at a gas station at Route 30 and Planebrook Road, when company members were burning off a field next to the Mehl & Latta Lumber Company (J&L). Winds swept the fire into the lumber yard as Bill and his friends ran toward the lumber yard to help. Fire company personnel welcomed their assistance as the fire was brought under control.
At the next BOD meeting, BOD member Alan Blacklock suggested the age limit be lowered to 16 from Bill’s prompting. It was agreed by all. For all of us who joined the company at age 16, we have William Steven Gatlos to thank. Bill’s sister, Betty, was also a company member in the auxiliary and brother Bob Gatlos was assistant fire chief. Bill was on the scene at both major train derailments along Route 352 in 1959 and 1960, as well as countless numbers of fires, parades and company functions. It was Bill and Bob Gatlos who painted “East Whiteland” on the backs of fire coats so everyone could be recognized at fire scenes. There was very little money and times were tough, so they made do with what they had.
In June 1972 during Hurricane Agnes, at the time the worst natural disaster in the United States and still today the worst natural disaster in Pennsylvania, Bill took a crew on the 1963 Hahn engine to Phoenixville and Mont Clare to assist in rescue and pumping details. One week later, after returning, Bill organized a relief effort with East Whiteland and Berwyn Fire Companies to provide truckloads of much-needed supplies to the Pottsville and Wilkes-Barre areas.
In July 1972, my very first response was with Bill Gatlos to a report of a building fire at William Henry Apartments, just the two of us. Lucky for me, it was an overheated television set, televisions had heated tubes back then. Bill and I responded on the 1963 Hahn to a well off dumpster fire against a building at the old Main Line Airport on Swedesford Road, where the fire was extinguished with a booster line. Bill Gatlos, Tommy Cockerham and myself were the original committee members to try to get EMS into the East Whiteland Fire Company. With nearly every door slammed in our faces, it finally came about several years later. Bill was able to visit with us when the new station was being built and again during our dedication ceremony.
His heart was in this company, as he often said, 1956 to 1974 were the best years of his life as a member of the East Whiteland Fire Company. As a firefighter and engineer, he was among the very best. In recent years while living in Missouri, Bill would often visit area fire departments, telling them how the real fire company back east in East Whiteland did the job just right. On a personal note, my brother Bill was drowning in a pond at Church Farm School when Bill Gatlos jumped in and saved his life, pulling him out to safety. Thank you Bill for all you gave us.
The previous memories and remembrances were made by Randy Cockerham.
On July 15, 2020, Jesus called him home. He was surrounded by his children. He was preceded in death by his parents, Andrew and Anna Gatlos; three brothers, Andrew, Steve and John; and one sister, Barbara Hull (Gatlos). He was also preceded in death by one of his best friends and fellow firefighter Tommy Cockerham just two weeks prior.
William is survived by his longtime love, Gloria Princo, of Phoenix, Ariz.; three sisters, Margie Gatlos (Staten), Anna Mae Gatlos (Norcross) and Betty Gatlos (Whitaker); two brothers, Michael Gatlos and Robert Gatlos, all of Pennsylvania. He has one son, William S. Gatlos Jr. of Springfield, and three daughters, Stephanie (Michael) Johnson of Staunton Ill., Jennifer Gatlos of Staunton, Ill. and Rebecca Gatlos (Rickard Harris) of Springfield. William later added two more daughters, whom he loved as his own, Shelly (Peter) Evtimov of Arizona and Sherry Bradshaw of Seymour. He has 15 grandsons — Juan, Chris, Mat, Jonny, Joey, Caleb, Caden, Colston, Kaleb, Makoy, Paul, Ben, Dan, Oleksiy and James, as well as one granddaughter, Kylynn, whom he called “C.C.” He also has five great-grandsons, six great-granddaughters and one TBA.
Dad was a lifetime member of the East Whiteland Fire Department and always thought of them as his family. He retired from Jenkins Diesel in Springfield. One of Dad’s favorite things was to make Indian jewelry and pan for gold. Dad had an amazing sense of humor and had a way of making people laugh. Even in his last hours, he was rolling his eyes at us and saying things to make us all laugh. He had a great heart, and when you ran into those who knew him, they always spoke of how sweet and funny he was. He was also as sarcastic as they come and kept you on your toes. There was never a dull moment with him around; you were either laughing or shocked at what he said. If you were around him long enough you heard him say, “Is that your final answer?” Though our arms are empty, our hearts are full of the laughter and love we have to keep with us to remind us of the times we had until we are together again.
On Father’s Day in 2010, William accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. Our hearts may be broken, but our memories will carry us until we are together again. We love you, Dad.