Charles "Bud" Kilgus Jr., 89, a retired machine-shop foreman and devoted nursing-home volunteer, died Sunday, Dec. 15, of heart failure at Immaculate Mary Home in Northeast Philadelphia.

Trained as a draftsman and machinist, Mr. Kilgus worked for many years at M.L. Bayard & Co. in North Philadelphia. He started as a machinist and rose to senior machine-shop foreman, a responsibility he shared with another man.

The company's work was exacting. It designed and manufactured heavy-duty machinery for the Atomic Energy Commission, including high-vacuum valves used to produce radioactive plutonium for reactors.

There was no margin for error, and Mr. Kilgus' love of precision made him suited for the job.

"My father believed in doing something right," said his daughter Susan Castille, wife of Ronald D. Castille, chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. "If it was worth doing, it was worth doing right."

Mr. Kilgus' employer, Arnold Bayard, also asked him to tend the world-class wine collection that Bayard stored in a wine cellar beneath the plant.

Mr. Kilgus fussed over the bottles and adjusted the room temperature to ensure the wines aged well. At year's end, Bayard would present Mr. Kilgus with an expensive bottle of wine. But Mr. Kilgus wasn't interested in alcoholic beverages.

"My father never drank it. He gave it away," his daughter said.

Born in Philadelphia and schooled at Northeast High, Mr. Kilgus enlisted in the Army in 1942. He was assigned to the 182d Infantry Regiment, American Division, and deployed as a medic to Cebu and Leyte in the Philippines, Bougainville, and Fiji.

Mr. Kilgus was wounded in battle in the Philippines during the Solomon Islands and South Pacific campaigns. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

He also was decorated with five Bronze Stars for combat in Cebu and Leyte.

Mr. Kilgus was married for 62 years to the former Margaret Toohey, his high school sweetheart. The two raised five children in Germantown and, later, Northeast Philadelphia.

After Mr. Kilgus' wife was incapacitated by a stroke, he cared for her at home for three years. Eventually, she could not talk or move, so he tended her each day at the Immaculate Mary Home.

After she died in 2008, he returned to the nursing home in the city's Holme Circle section and volunteered, running the snack bar and helping ailing residents, until slowed by illness.

"His attitude was, 'I'm capable of this. I'm going to help them,' " said his daughter. "He was volunteering up until two years ago. He was a good guy."

Surviving, besides his daughter, are daughters Denise McBride, Margaret LaForgia, and Jacqueline Aspen; 12 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

A son, Charles, a Philadelphia firefighter, died in 2004 of fire-related causes while on duty.

A viewing from 8:30 to 9:15 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, will be followed by a 9:30 a.m. Funeral Mass at Immaculate Mary Home, 2990 Holme Ave., Philadelphia 19136. Interment is private.

Donations may be sent to Immaculate Mary Home.

bcook@phillynews.com

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