Joseph Gideon

Joe Gideon: A giant in Catholic travel industry

  • June 5, 2020

There were few like Joseph Gideon in the world of Catholic travel where for six decades he made dreams come true for those seeking a pilgrimage experience.

The patriarch and founder of Gideon Travel and Tours, Mr. Gideon passed away May 21 peacefully at his home surrounded by his family, including his wife Marcelle.

“By the grace of God, Joseph was chosen to leave this Earth on the Feast of the Ascension, when Jesus rose to Heaven,” his daughter Pauline wrote in a message to The Catholic Register, with whom the Gideon family has a longstanding relationship. “We are comforted knowing that Jesus has taken him to the everlasting life.”

Mr. Gideon was a giant in the travel industry and is remembered by the people he worked with as a man of integrity and honesty, and by Church leaders for his commitment to basing journeys on the life of Jesus.

“Joe was a committed Catholic who emphasized the importance of a pilgrimage based on the life of Jesus, so it was a spiritual journey rather than a tour,” said Kitty McGilly, a Catholic pilgrimage leader who worked with Gideon Travel and Tours for more than 20 years.

McGilly was introduced to Mr. Gideon by a Franciscan priest at his midtown Toronto office “and I never looked back.” It was something McGilly shared with the travel agency’s employees who were devoted to Mr. Gideon and enjoyed working in his efficient and welcoming office.

“They were long term, each with a specific area of expertise. Joe trained them and relied on them thereafter,” she said. “In a world of technology, long waits and voice messages, Gideon Travel provided personal service. The phone was always answered and response to requests immediate.”

She shares the story of one loyal employee, Sylvia, who after the office moved to south Etobicoke would take public transit from her east-end home each day “because, she told me, she liked working for Mr. Gideon.” Other employees purchased homes close to the new office for the same reason.

It’s something that is not unfamiliar to staff at The Catholic Register, where Mr. Gideon’s relationship dates back to 1959, when Mr. Gideon first opened Gideon Tours and Travel. While editors and advertising managers have come and gone, Mr. Gideon remained constant. His ads appeared in the same spot on Page 4 until the COVID-19 pandemic closed the travel industry.

“It’s the most important advertising outlet to publicize our tours,” Mr. Gideon told The Register in 2018.

Gideon had three daughters, Pauline, Jacqueline and Angeline. Pauline heads up the company now.

“Mr. Gideon was a true gentleman in every sense of the word,” said Catholic Register publisher and editor Jim O’Leary. “He could talk for hours about his travels around the world and the pilgrimages he led that were far too many to count to the Holy Land and other holy destinations. For more 60 years he was a true and loyal friend of The Catholic Register. We are all going to miss him.”

Mr. Gideon knew of what he spoke about on his “fascinating” (as he perceived all his pilgrimages) journeys to the Holy Land. He was a native of Haifa and a committed Palestinian, said McGilly. He was always anxious about the plight of his homeland and its people, pained when they pained, yet never engaged in politics in that regard, she said.

“He quietly financially supported many of the needy in his homeland and, when possible, gave them employment,” said McGilly.

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