In Memory

Benjamin Gilmore

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11/16/14 04:36 PM #1    

Robert Gurney

Ben was one of my best friends in High School and later in college.   Perhaps part of that was that we both had roots in the swamps of SE Mass and were referred to as hayseeds, or farmers or swampers on more than one occasion by our classmates and even teachers.    When I began working as a surveyor and engineer - Ben worked for the same firm.  We spent hundreds of hours together.  I recalled fondly the many times when we were office bound doing plans and he and I would go to the tiny grocery store next door and get a pound of thick sliced German Baloney, a half pound of cheese, a jar of sweet crickle slices, a half dozen fresh rolls, a large bag of Salt and Vinegar potato chips and a two liter bottle of coke.  This was in the day when foods were not all prepackaged.  So we got the baloney cut nearly half an inch thick.  We would then set about to devour the entire thing creating towers of cheese, meat, chips and pickels between the halves of the rolls.  I always had to watch Ben closely because his appetite was bigger than he was. 

Ben loved helping people.  He tried to help out everyone.  He was giving and generous.  He was also the best man at my wedding.   His wife and mine had simultaneous pregnancies.  They would compare notes on our first two kids.  He was a true friend and though our careers parted ways in the 1980s we kept in touch at first regularly and then less and less frequently as time passed.  

He was an invaluable help to me when I designed two different Churches for congregations that could not afford to hire engineers and architects.  He was generous even to people with substantially different faiths.  He never wanted anything in return.

I recall the weekend that Ben and some of the office guys went to a little concert in New York.  I was a bit too square to be asked to go along ( I did not drink or smoke)  - but the little concert turned out to be Woodstock.  He told great vivid stroies about his experience there.  Ben always lived life to the full - perhaps it might be said that he was even a bit larger than life.

Almost more that anything else Ben LOVED cranberries.  I recall many times in school he would arrive a bit late for class because he had spent all night tending his bogs to prevent freezing.  We both loved the bogs  and swamps but he made a career out of his love for them.  I was very proud to read he had become President of the Board of Ocean Spray Cranberries.  I guess he finally achieved the dream we spoke of when we were in High School. 

When Ben and I  were working on the same surveying crew in New Bedford,  I recall one day that Ben was cutting line ahead of me (I was transitman) and he was crew chief.  He was helping the laborers to cut through a very thick stand of "bushes" that blocked our path.  Ben loved swinging an Axe or bushook. I think he delighted in demonstrating his prowess with those instruments.  I was a few hindred feet away from where Ben and the others were feverishly working on this hot mid-summer afternoon.  I set up the transit and peered through the scope and for the first time noticed that Ben was in the process of cutting through a solid stand of Poison Sumac.  I yelled but it was far too late.  It was the one time that his "swamper" training let him down.  As soon as I yelled he actually looked at what he was cutting and I recall the look on his face. It was a combination of shock at what he was doing combined with a look that can only be translated as "What the &%*$#.  The next day he was covered in sumac rash as was every member of the crew except myself.  

I am deeply saddened by Ben's loss personally but far more for his wife Susan and their children and grandchildren - a man whose presence always loomed as large as Ben's in the lives of those who knew him can never be replaced - but recollections of his sense of humor and counrty witticisms sould provide some solace at this time of great sorrow. 

Goodbye Good Friend - it was too soon!





11/17/14 11:57 AM #2    

Wendell Frost

I knew Ben and his family (parents, brothers, grandparents, cousins) for more than 60 years - from church in Long Plain Acushnet, Boy Scouts, through high school and college. Everything others have mentioned about his generosity and warmth is absolutely true.  I was lucky to talk with Ben a couple of months ago as he was in rehabilitation in Boston and  even though it was rough, he was continually optimistic, upbeat and expecting to participate in the upcoming cranberry harvest.  Bob Gurney's Woodstock recollection about Ben is also also true except that instead of co-workers, I drove my parents car and the others were Ben, his brother Kirby and another of our classmates, Bob Roy.  I'm sure Ben told quite the story of our adventure.

Rest In Peace, my friend.


04/21/19 01:39 AM #3    

Wendell Frost

For those who didn't know Ben well, this eulogy by his brother Kirby is compelling, (at least for me who was a friend to both brothers) and brings back many memories of our early years in Acushnet.


Told by Kirby Gilmore at a Celebration of the Life of Benjamin A. Gilmore II, Nov. 15, 2014.

As I was thinking back on my brother’s life it occurred to me that we were in many ways two individuals acting as one. My Grandmother called us the Irish twins; we were not quite 13 months apart; my birthday being in October and his in November. I cannot recall any time not having him around, even when we were separated. Such are the lives of siblings with all of the rivalry, competition, cooperation and boasting that settles in to a lifetime.

We were raised in Acushnet when it was truly a farming community. Ben and I at one time had counted thirteen dairy farms that we knew growing up. Ours was one, but like so many in the years following the war was poor and part time. My dad worked two jobs, the farm from 4 AM till 7 AM, and then to the bogs working for Geo Cowan till 4 PM, then back to the farm till 9 PM. Like all the kids in the neighborhood, Ben and I would do our part with chores. It was the 1950s and life was hard; our home had two bedrooms and no central heat. My mother with her three kids would do laundry twice a day six days a week in the kitchen. Ben and I would take turns carrying out the grey water up the steps leading the garden where it was received as fertilizer.

Being older I was the first to go to school. It was 1952, and sugar being good for kids was available at Bud’s filling station (now the County Whip). My brother gave me 5 cents to buy a candy bar with the promise that I would bring it home for him. As I got off the bus I remember mom and Ben waiting for me. Where is the candy bar, Ben inquired; all I had was the empty wrapper, temptation caused me to eat the whole thing. It was the last time my brother ever entrusted me with his money. Ben eventually did get to school; it was 1st through 8th grades in four rooms. We had a great sports program. During his lunch break, the janitor would organize us into sport teams with soft ball for the guys and dodge ball for the girls. We all provided our own equipment that was kept in a closet behind the stairwell. The lunch recess was an hour long free for all when kids of all ages ran amok. There were always some schoolyard bullies being mean to the girls; but Ben came to their rescue as ‘Hugger’. If he saw a young damsel in distress, he would run up to the bully and give ‘em a bear-hug and throw ‘em on the ground where they would writher in pain. Nobody messed with Ben.

Life on the farm was good, there was plenty of milk to drink, plenty of poop to shovel, and plenty of hay to feed. Ben and I would get paid a dollar a week for our efforts. I spent mine, Ben saved his. One day he had decided that farm life was not for him; he wanted to become an entrepreneur. A paper route was in his future; so he bought one from the lazy kid who delivered to the house. Five dollars and it was his. The thing was Ben did not have a bicycle; but I knew where there two, and with his money bought them. I took the two and made one good out of the parts using some tools I found our grandfather’s woodshed. Not all of the folks would pay, and Ben was always juggling for cash to pay the driver. But soon he discovered the gift of persuasion. He would go to the house of the deadbeat and weave a story of hardship and woe. The person in arrears felt so guilty that often they would pay him double; of course Ben would pocket the difference. On the other hand he would often not have enough to pay the delivery driver, and he learned to talk his way out of it. Throughout his life Ben honed his gift – the gift of gab, as my mother called it. As an engineer, he could take a hostile audience at a public hearing and before the evening was over he had them all in the palm of his hand.

My brother knew that perseverance and hard work would get him to where he wanted to go. Scholastic achievement was never his forte. He struggled in school with average grades even as he stood out as model kid. High school in New Bedford was just hard work. He graduated with a C average which was just enough to get him into Worcester State College as a history major. He wanted to do more. Using his natural gift of persuasion; he managed to transfer to what is now U Mass. Dartmouth into its nascent engineering program. There he found the success that he worked so hard for, and he graduated with honors.

At about this time when all of his buddies enjoyed the more salient aspects of campus social life like steady girlfriends, Ben was immersed in his studies; but one day out of the blue something happened that changed Ben Gilmore forever. Our step grandmother, Edith Hudson from Marion, had a notion that we needed to have a social life, and brought by a sweet skinny girl for us to become acquainted with. Ben got his self spiffed up for the occasion. Sure enough he was impressed. But who had ever heard of a place called Tihonet? We learned too that her family had a few cranberry bogs. After about five minutes Ben was smitten. He waxed eloquent as he turned on the charm, and I was surprised to learn that he had been a cranberry grower since he was five! She was polite, but not really impressed with either of us. Later that day, it was Susan, Susan, Susan. It’s all he talked about for the next week. How could he get to meet her again, and if he did what would he say? But, he stuck with it, and he married that girl. She was the girl of his dreams, and he lived the dream.

Ben’s foray into the cranberry business was no different than anything else he did; he relied on his personality to get him through. The family had always been in cranberries, even when we lived on the farm. My dad returning from the war with his distinguished flying cross in hand, and ended up working for a wage for Geoge Cowan, but my grandfather had some bogs that he and Cowan owned together on family land on Black Pond. Ben and I would always help out at harvest after school moving the empty boxes from the shore to the pickers and then back to shore full. We never got paid, but it was fun working with all the misfits that usually made up the crew. So when Ben decided to buy a bog he managed it along with all of his other things he was doing. His plate was always full. Our first serious venture was for an old bog in South Carver that was listed with a for sale sign planted on Cranberry Rd. Folks joked that it was really hay field. It had a rickety old screen house, and a frost shack; it was perfect with 28 acres producing 300 barrels. The challenge was how could we buy it? Ben had some equity, and I, as usual, had not a dime to my name. Of course, we could get Farm Credit to finance it, what a clever idea. Ben made the arrangements for the credit person to take a tour with us. Well Dick Gilmore showed up, and Ben took us through this amazing scheme of how we would build an empire with this fantastic opportunity to own this wonderful bog that really was one of the best in all of Carver. Why in only two years it will be producing 200 barrels/acre. All along I was thinking who is going to attend to the details. “Ha ha ha” (Ben’s laugh) not to worry everything will be fine. I had never mowed so much grass in my life just to get the bees to pollinate. Too make matters worse we had no equipment, and my junkyard pickup truck needed a clutch, the old screen house had a leaky roof, and the pump houses were falling down. To me it was a disaster waiting to happen, but to Ben it was a glorious enterprise. If it was not for Jack Atwood at Crane Brook coming to our rescue, well who knows? We were the laughing stock of Carver, but as usual Ben came through with his charm.

Finally, Ben was always a person with a vision of community and family working together making it happen with generosity towards others, hard work and sacrifice, and most of all personality. He was the Big Picture guy with Vision. He was in charge making plans for the future. He was a good guy, and we will miss his presence, but he will be there for some of us like the little angel sitting on our shoulder prompting us to keep moving when things get tough, and always, always, live life to the full.

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