New York Times Portraits of Grief

 
SMILES FOR ALL OCCASIONS
Rodney C. Gillis

In just under 34 years, Rodney C. Gillis had accomplished many things: A police sergeant with the Emergency Service Unit. A certified emergency medical technician. A dedicated father of three.

But years from now, Sergeant Gillis, who lived in Brooklyn, may be best remembered as the man with many smiles. Even when he was angry — which was rare — he'd still smile. Herewith, according to his mother, Geraldine Gilliam, and a colleague, Officer Harriett Stevenson, a partial list:

1) The Knowing Smile: When he made eye contact with someone else, and both knew what was going on.

2) The Proud Smile: When he talked about his son and two daughters, or when he got dressed up in uniform and looked at himself in the mirror.

3) The Concerned Smile. When friends or relatives were going through a difficult spell, and needed a morale boost.

4) The Encouraging Smile. "If a situation was difficult, you wouldn't know about it, because he'd have that look of assurance saying, 'Don't worry, we can handle it,' " Ms. Stevenson said.

Even on Sept. 11, right after the first plane crashed, Sergeant Gillis remarked to a colleague that the weather was beautiful. "God allowed him to see some beauty before he went in to see all the ugliness," Ms. Gilliam said.

And the picture here? The Courtesy Smile. Sergeant Gillis didn't like to have his picture taken, but he always obliged.