In the fall of 1941, Janice (Jan) Krull met John Gillespie in a grade school classroom. Little did they know, the love they would share, and their subsequent 59-year marriage would go on to change the lives of hundreds of young men in their community. Today, January 25, 2018, Rawhide Boys Ranch celebrates the life and legacy of Jan Gillespie.

In the mid-sixties, a young boy approached Jan and John during a church service and shared the struggles he faced in his home life. He asked to spend the afternoon with the couple, and they happily obliged.

The afternoon shared with the young boy from church turned into so much more. John and Jan felt a calling that would lead them to open their home to more at-risk youth from the community.

Jan Gillespie with horses at Rawhide

Along with the support of Bart and Cherry Starr, John and Jan founded Rawhide Boys Ranch. She was instrumental in bringing the Starrs on board with Rawhide after insisting her husband, John, make a cold call to the Starrs, encouraging them to lend their influence.

Jan helped turn Rawhide into a top-rated charity and transform the organization from one boy’s home into its current state that includes seven boy’s homes, an accredited private high school, a mental health outpatient clinic, and numerous job training facilities.

A long-lasting legacy

Jan, along with her husband, served as a houseparent for over 27 years at Rawhide providing care, direction, and unconditional love to at-risk youth.

“They’re like your children and even though they weren’t born into your family, you treat them like your children, and you love them unconditionally.”

Jan’s love of horses and horseback riding led her to pair young men residing at Rawhide with a horse on the ranch. Jan knew when responsible for the care of a horse, at-risk youth can better learn about trust, communication, confidence, and social skills. Today, Rawhide incorporates an Equine Program that helps at-risk youth work on issues like anger management, relationship building, boundaries, alcohol and substance abuse, and more.

Her legacy reaches far beyond the horse barn. Jan’s role as Housemother for over 350 young men helped instill values that many of those young men have passed on to their own families. She was instrumental in the development of each and every boy that entered her home as a houseparent at Rawhide. Houseparents at Rawhide Boys Ranch continue to strive to provide a family structure for at-risk boys from our community.

Jan remained active and close to the community at Rawhide for years after retirement, attending fish fry’s and keeping in contact with youth and alumni from the Ranch.

On January 25, 2017, Jan Gillespie passed away in her home with her husband and best friend John by her side. On the anniversary of her death, we look back and give thanks for her called life of service that touched the lives of so many and rejoice in her everlasting life in Christ.