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Anita Marie Gilleo

February 8, 1924 ~ July 28, 2023 (age 99) 99 Years Old


Anita M. Gilleo departed for her next adventure the morning of July 28, 2023. She is preceded by her grandparents, Mathias J. and Bertha (Schwind) Alten; parents, Avery C. Gilleo and Eleanore Alten Gilleo; and by her brother Mathias Alten Gilleo.  Left to tell her stories are her cousin Dianne (Demmon) Boozer; extended family members including Linda (Boozer) and Yuri Vasilaki, Joan Vondra, Pat Lown, Willard Larkin; and special friends Leonard (Lenny) Lane and Sondra Loucks Wilson.

Born in Grand Rapids and raised primarily in her grandparents’ home on the corner of Alten and Fulton—across from the current Aquinas College campus—Anita had an adventurous spirit and lifelong curiosity. A writer, editor, astute business woman, and artist she had no time for chit-chat and eschewed crowds, but would always make time for puppies, kittens, and estate sales!

Anita graduated from the University of Michigan in 1944 with her degree in Literature.  She went on to attend classes at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC having moved there to do editorial work for the American Chemical Society. A career with the Army Corps of Engineers and the United States Armed Forces Institute followed. Both suited her wanderlust, bringing her to places such as Morocco, Spain, Lebanon, Germany, and Vietnam. Anita earned her Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies at the American University of Beirut and, in 1974, her Doctor of Arts in government at Idaho State University.

Not one to settle down, Anita enjoyed hiking, kayaking, canoeing, snowshoeing, and biking. In 2000, she joined, as she tells it, a “group of crazy people” (Odyssey 2000) who biked around the world to celebrate the millennium. Even later in life, she continued to walk, bike, and canoe wherever she was able. 

Throughout her life, Anita worked to preserve her grandfather’s artistic legacy, e.g., through exhibitions, lectures, scholarships, and bequests. Her final achievement in that regard is the design and imminent placement of the Mathias J. Alten enhanced reality sculpture on Grand Valley State University’s (GVSU) downtown campus.  She, herself, gifted a portfolio of sketches from her time in Ann Arbor to Martha Cook Residence Hall. And, in 2016, GVSU mounted an exhibit, A Woman Abroad: Artistic Adventures in Cold War Morocco, to showcase her travels and a few of the many watercolors she made in Tangier. 

Anita once said that you must “make your own pathway through life.” She certainly did that. She will be missed.

Per her request, Anita has been cremated. A gathering of friends and family will take place at Fountain Street Church in the chapel at 1pm on Saturday September 9, 2023 followed by a reception. Gifts in Anita’s memory can be made to the University of Michigan G R Alumnae Trust Scholarship Fund through the Grand Rapids Community Foundation (Grand Rapids, MI): or the Sweet House Foundation (254 Fulton Street E., Grand Rapids, MI 49503; 616-459-5484).

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Memorial Service
September 9, 2023

1:00 PM
Fountain Street Church Chapel (Grand Rapids, West Michigan)


Sweet House Foundation
254 Fulton St. E., Grand Rapids MI 49503
Tel: 1-616-454-5484

University of Michigan G R Alumnae Trust Scholarship Fund
Grand Rapids MI


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