Bidwell biographer dies

Chicoans learned last week that Michael J. Gillis (pictured), a Chico State University history instructor and the co-author of a 2003 biography of Chico founder John Bidwell, died April 7 at the Stanford Medical Center. He had been diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) and was on Stanford’s liver transplant waiting list. He was 58.

In an announcement distributed on campus, history Prof. Michael Magliari, Gillis’ co-author on John Bidwell and California: The Life and Writings of a Pioneer 1841-1900, described his longtime friend as “one of the most popular classroom instructors in the History Department” and “a very talented historian with a gift for entertaining storytelling.”

In a July 31, 2003, cover story about the book, the CN&R noted that it could “take its place not only as the definitive collection of Bidwell’s writings, but also as the best study of the man himself” and was “indispensable reading for anyone interested in local or California history.”

A celebration of Gillis’ life is set for Sunday, April 29, at 11 a.m. at the Warrens Reception Center on campus.