Goshen, NY — Iconic Orange County, N.Y., harness horse veterinarian Dr. Howard E. “Doc” Gill, died Monday (Feb. 7) at his home in Perdido Key, Fla., with the blessing of his family. He was 95.
Howard Gill was born Sept. 25, 1926, the son of Howard and Edith Kaufman Gill. Upon graduation from Cherryvale High School in Kansas, he went on to serve his country in the United States Navy. Following his stint in the armed forces, Gill graduated from Independence Junior College and went on to Kansas State University, where he earned his doctorate in veterinary medicine. While at Kansas State, Gill was also a scholar-athlete, playing football at KSU as a halfback and a safety. Gill held the Wildcats punt return record for almost 50 years.
A horse enthusiast from an early age as well as a renowned equine veterinarian, Gill specialized in reproduction and surgery, serving on the college staff of Kansas State and at Michigan State, where his mentoring began and continued throughout his life. In 2008, Gill was honored with the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Distinguished Educators Award for his work as a faculty member at Michigan State.
“Doc Gill,” as he was known by his many clients and admirers, worked for decades in the Hudson Valley of New York in private practice, founding Pine Bush Equine, which ultimately grew into one of the premier veterinary practices in the state.
One of Gill’s true passions was the breeding, breaking, training and racing of Standardbred racehorses. While Gill semi-retired from his veterinary practice, he never really slowed down, continuing to drive and train well into his eighties.
Most fans fondly remember his homebred Miss Gibbons (1:52.3, $297,312), a New York Sire Stakes Horse of the Year with 28 wins and several track records to her credit. Owned, bred, trained and driven by Gill, the Giant Hit mare provided the octogenarian with many thrills and accolades wherever they traveled to race.
Following a victory at Monticello Raceway in 2007, Gill told public relations guru John Manzi, “I looked forward to it then and even more so now because it keeps me young, though my wife Irene would prefer that I slow down,” he said. “I keep telling her that someday I will — but that’ll be a sad day in my life when I do.”
Throughout his years of working in the horse industry, he enjoyed the many friends and colleagues that were a part of his life. He was also a member of the Christian Harness Horseman’s Association, recognizing the importance of faith and eternal life. Gill’s family felt very blessed to have shared such a long, prosperous life with him. They are extremely grateful for the precious time they had with him over the past few years, despite his failing health.
Gill was predeceased by his parents and two brothers, Don and Jim Gill. He is survived by his very devoted wife of 67 years, Irene Denton Gill; son, Stanley (Susan); daughters, Anne Gill Syphard (Jack) and Jane Watt (Stuart); grandchildren, Natalie Quintana Brown (Ted), Andrew Quintana, Luke Gill (Daniel), Samuel Gill, Claire Reutter and William Reutter; and two great-grandchildren, Owen and Collin Brown.
Services will be private. A celebration of Gill’s life will be held this July in Goshen during the Historic Track Grand Circuit meet.
Memorial contributions can be made on his behalf to two organizations that Gill was passionate about: the Christian Harness Horsemen’s Association or New Vocations Adoption Program.