Charlestown’s ‘Commander’ Gillen Remembered at Bunker Hill Day Exercises

The annual Battle Bunker Hill Memorial Exercises were held on Monday, June 17, and for the first time in years, they were missing the familiar face of the late Commander Bob Gillen – a retired Navy officer who grew up in Charlestown and returned here after his long, distinguished career in the Navy.

Ahead of the playing of ‘Taps,’ USS Constitution Commander Nathaniel Shick rose to present an American flag in Bob’s memory to his son, Commander Robert Gillen Jr.

“Bob Gillen left us last summer and left me standing alone,” said Arthur Hurley, chairman of the Bunker Hill Monument Association and longtime coordinator with Bob Gillen. “We miss him. He did so much and we don’t know how to carry out all the things he did for the Town without him. He did so much for this program every year.”

Shick noted that Gillen had been the 59th commander of the USS Constitution, and had taken great measure to make sure Shick knew how important the vessel was to Charlestown.

“He was a man of absolute passion and not just about the USS Constitution,” said Shick. “He would come down to visit me about once a week and talk to me about how important the Constitution was as an icon to the community. He wanted me to urge me to continue the traditions in Charlestown and our positive interactions with the American public.”

Long-time friend Jack Alves rose to read his remembrances of Gillen, but a few sentences into his remarks, he was so moved with emotion that he had to sit down and let Shick read the rest.

“Bob Gillen was born in Charlestown living in the shadow of the Bunker Hill Monument and that history was imprinted on him at a very young age,” Alves said before sitting down.

That was followed by the flag presentation, the musket salute to Gillen and those who died in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775.

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