Bishop Gilmore’s father featured
in Pittsburg’s Morning Sun
Leo Gilmore, 90, reflects
on a life lived fully
By NIKKI PATRICK
The Morning Sun
Reprinted with Permission
PITTSBURG — His life’s journey has taken him across the United States, to Italy and to Singapore, but Leo Gilmore’s steps have always brought him back home.
Now a resident of Via Christi Village, he was born May 27, 1920 at Chicopee, the son of Charles and Alice Gilmore. There were 12 children in his family, nine boys and three girls. “I was the fourth of them,” said Gilmore. “There are four boys and three girls still living, and I’ve got lots of nieces and nephews around.”
Many friends and family gathered recently at Via Christi Village to celebrate Gilmore’s 90th birthday.
He attended Chicopee schools for four years. When the family moved to a 40-acre farm in the West Union School District, Gilmore attended those schools.
“All of us kids used to work with a horse baler, baling hay all summer long,” Gilmore said.
“When I was 17, I went to CCC Camps in Washington State, in Mount Rainier National Park for three months. Then I spent three months in Shenandoah.”
He and his wife, Maxine, were married on June 28, 1941. “The first year after I got married I worked in the coal mine, but I quit that after my oldest son, Ronald, was born,” Gilmore said. “Then I went to work at the Army Ammunition Plant in Parsons.”
He was called into the military in October 1942. “I was in the Air Force, and worked on B-24 bombers,” Gilmore said.
He was first at Leavenworth, then underwent technical training in Amarillo, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; and San Diego. “Then I got my assignment to Alamagordo, N.M., to work on B-24s until the company was ready to go overseas,” he said. “I could have flown over, but Maxine thought it would be safer if I went over by boat. So I got on a boat and we started for Africa, but they changed our orders and we landed in Naples on Christmas Eve. We were stationed right on the heel of Italy.”
He was a mechanic, working on the B-24 bomber. “Our plane was the only one in the squadron that flew all the missions and was still good at the end of the war,” Gilmore said proudly.
He spent 18 months in Italy before the war in Europe was over. “On May 15 we were on our way home,” he said. “We came into Boston, Pier 7. I went to Leavenworth and had a month’s furlough. Then we were going to get back together and work on B-29s, but the war was over before we could get together.”
He got into a car wreck shortly after that and broke his back. “I was in the hospital at Camp Crowder from June 13 to Dec. 5,” Gilmore said. “They gave me a medical discharge, and after that I went to college. But I hadn’t finished high school, so when it was time for me to graduate from college they said I couldn’t because I didn’t have a high school diploma. I finished my high school work, and both diplomas at the same time.”
He got a job teaching at Mindenmines, Mo. “I taught there until Thanksgiving, then taught the rest of the year at West Mineral,” Gilmore said. “But my son, Ronald, wanted to go back to school at St. Mary’s, so we moved back to Pittsburg.”
His oldest son eventually became a priest and is now Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dodge City.
“I’m glad we moved back,” Gilmore said.
He went into carpentry work and continued that until retiring. “I built houses,” he said. “I never kept track of how many, but I probably built 100 or so in town.”
He and his wife eventually had four sons. In addition to Ronald, there were Dennis, Leo Alan and Richard.
“I was a Little League coach for all four of them,” Gilmore said.
There was a good span of years between his oldest and youngest sons.
“By the time Richard was born, Ronald was a priest, so he baptized his baby brother,” Gilmore said.
The Gilmores enjoyed traveling around the country visiting their children, four grandsons and one granddaughter. There are now also three great-grandchildren.
“We would just take off and go,” Gilmore said. “But I never shut down when I was working on a house. I’d wait until it was built before we went on vacation.”
Sadly, Maxine Gilmore died in January, 2005. “She was sick for 10 years and I took care of her,” Gilmore said. “She spent three years at Cornerstone Village (now Via Christi Village) and I came here last April, so here I am sitting around five miles from where I was born. I’ve been all over, but Pittsburg is home.”
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