University News

Belles' Ashes Interred in WIU Columbarium

October 26, 2021

Share |
Printer friendly version

MACOMB, IL – To honor his wishes and celebrate his legacy at Western Illinois University, the late Gil Belles, professor emeritus of Western Illinois University's recreation, park and administration (RPTA) department is home.

Belles' ashes were interred – and are in the first to be interred – in the WIU Columbarium today (Oct. 26), which is located east of Sherman Hall near the WIU Employee Memorial Tree Grove. Belles passed away May 25, 2017. Part of his final wishes were to be interred in the WIU Columbarium, which he left funds to construct. Final approval was recently granted to exempt WIU's Columbarium from the Illinois Cemetery Act.

Belles arrived at Western in 1968 to teach history. While he was in that department he helped create a Black Studies Area and then chaired the department of African American studies. In 1985, Belles "retrained," earning another degree, and began teaching in the department of recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA). He taught in RPTA, creating courses for the tourism component of the curriculum, until his retirement in 1996. During his tenure, he was actively involved in such campus activities as Open Door and the President's Task Force to End Homophobia, and continued to be involved in numerous community and civic organizations including the Performing Arts Society, YMCA of McDonough County, Tri-States Public Radio and Tri-States Audio Information Services, the Western Illinois Museum, Meals on Wheels, McDonough County Historical Society and the Macomb Public Library.

"Gil supported WIU and its students. This University and its people were his home and family," said Brad Bainter, executive officer of the WIU Foundation. "He will forever be a part of WIU."

For more information on the WIU Columbarium, contact the WIU Foundation and Development Office at (309) 298-1861.

Posted By: University Communications (
Office of University Communications & Marketing