Peggy Jean Gillmore of Lorain passed away last week at the age of 89. I didn't know her, but I interviewed her once over the phone for an article I wrote for The Black Swamp Trader & Firelands Gazette last year.
The article was about General Quincy Adams Gillmore, the Civil War commander from Lorain who made artillery history. It was a day or two away from being due at the newspaper, and was almost complete, when a nagging feeling came over me. I knew that Peggy Gillmore was related to him (he was her fifth cousin), but had neglected to contact her for the article. And now it was bothering me.
I had tons of reference material about General Gillmore and didn't really need any information from Peggy, but somehow it didn't seem right to write about him without contacting his last living relative still in the area. So I found her phone number online and called her clear out of the blue.
She answered and I identified myself over the phone. She hadn't heard of The Black Swamp Trader & Firelands Gazette, and was understandably cautious as she spoke with me. It wasn't until it turned out that she remembered my mother and my aunt from when they were kids in the same neighborhood near Irving Elementary School in Lorain that she warmed up a bit.
I'm glad I took notes of our conversation, because it became quite lively and fun.
She was proud of her famous cousin but in a very low-key way. "Gillmores are not ones to blow their own horn," she remarked.
She agreed that it was her understanding that she was the last of the Gillmore descendants in the area. "They might be some in Elyria," she stated.
It was a good thing that I contacted her about the article, because she was rather annoyed that despite her considerable knowledge about General Gillmore and her other famous relatives, she was rarely consulted by anyone in the media.
"Everyone seems to be an expert on the Gillmores, but they never come to the source," she complained.
She was quite sharp for someone in their late 80s and rattled off many facts and dates that were right on the money according to the research materials I had accumulated.
She pointed out that there used to be a brass commemorative plaque at Lakeview Park dedicated to General Gillmore, but it was stolen. (The land on which Lakeview Park is located used to belong to the Gillmore family.)
A new plaque was installed when the park made some improvements, but Peggy was unimpressed with it. "I think the new one is plastic," she laughed.
Peggy was quite generous with her time with me on the phone, and even offered to mail me some copies of some articles that might help me with my mine. I confessed that my article was due in the next day or so and that I didn't want her to go to that amount of trouble.
We talked some more, and at one point Peggy admitted, "Young man, I just don't know what you want from me." But by that time, I'd gotten exactly what I wanted – her unique perspective about her famous ancestor.
I'm glad I had the chance to talk to her.
Tomorrow: My Black Swamp Trader & Firelands Gazette article about General Quincy Adams Gillmore