When Bill Gilmore died on January 20th, Cobleskill lost a man who would always, in his own way, be mayor.
Hundreds lined Chapel Street for his calling hours Friday; nearly as many filled the Methodist Church a day later for a memorial service.
But even as Mr. Gilmore was being remembered as a Boy Scout commissioner, a Salvation Army bell-ringer, a member of the Beard’s Hollow Society, and a member of the Cobleskill Fish & Game Club, those who knew him best were remembering him as something else:
A guy with a helluva sense of humor.
“We went back a long ways,” said Cobleskill Supervisor Roger Cohn. “We sort of grew up together.
“Bill would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it,” but that didn’t stop him from having a good time.
Mr. Cohn remembers when he and Mr. Gilmore climbed Mount Marcy in the 1970s with a couple other friends.
“It was probably August, but there was still snow there. It was quite a hike and we camped out overnight in the lean-tos. Bill, he brought along a six-pack of Harvey Wallbangers and stuck them in a stream to keep them cold.
“We had a great time. We always did. I lost a great friend.”
Neighbor Alan Rubin was one of Mr. Gilmore’s closest friends. So close, in fact, that they were able to get a laugh out of the fact that they both ended up with a prosthetic foot each—one left, the other right.
“Before, I was having trouble with an infection and my wife was changing my bandage every day,” Mr. Rubin said. “Bill asked what kind of a jackass couldn’t change his own bandage. I told him, ‘Well, I can’t take my leg off and put it on my lap like you can.’
“We were like brothers.”
Mr. Rubin and Mr. Gilmore shared a nightly cigar, “talking wine, women, and everything. All the world’s problems. Who was going to make it to heaven first...”
Mr. Gilmore was, well, cheap Mr. Rubin said.
They’d trade off on driving each other to doctor’s appointments and when Mr. Rubin tried to get his pal to fork over $22 for a corned beef sandwich at one New York City deli, “he about choked. We ended up with Sabrett’s hot dogs.”
Mr. Gilmore’s tendency to borrow—and break Mr. Rubin’s tools—sometimes in ways even the repairmen had never seen before—was another source of good-natured ribbing, even when it meant Mr. Rubin spent half-a-day and $60 in parts on a rotor-tiller Mr. Gilmore sold three days later.
“I told him I just wished he’d told me that first,”
One of the last times Mr. Rubin saw Mr. Gilmore he “complained” Mr. Gilmore’s four-wheeler was still in his garage.
“Let’s just say, he made a ‘gesture,” Mr. Rubin said.
“I’ll miss him.”
Erik Holmes was another, younger neighbor of the Gilmores and remembers him for opening his home and backyard not only to him and his sisters, but to the rest of the kids in the neighborhood.
“He even built all of us a fort in the woods next to his place,” Mr. Holmes said.
“Mr. G. always asked how we were doing...[He] showed me what it meant to be part of your community. Mr. G. made a difference.”
Another longtime friend, Ted Brinkman, coaxed a smile out of Mr. Gilmore the last time they were together, at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital, when he told the former mayor that once he got himself out of bed, they’d run for village office again.
And praise for Mr. Gilmore also came from a somewhat unexpected source, Bob LaPietra, a contender in the election that cost Mr. Gilmore the mayor’s seat.
“I liked Bill,” Mr. LaPietra said. “He was a genuinely nice guy. I felt he ran the village in a different way than I would have done, but he made a lot of contributions.
“He and I had a lot of interesting lunches together. We agreed on some things and not on others, but we had a good time.”