A REMEMBRANCE: He was gruff, smart, honest — and full of heart

John J. Gilmore was a reporter and public relations specialist in the greater Bridgeport region for many years. Gilmore died on Sept. 10 at age 62. He is perhaps best known for his many years with the then-Bridgeport Post.

Neil Sherman, who lives in Stratford as did Gilmore, submitted this column about his longtime working relationship and friendship with Gilmore. The obituary for Gilmore appears below, after Sherman’s column.

 

by Neil Sherman

I don’t think John Gilmore and I would ever call our 35-year friendship a friendship. It had its own ways of communication and its own ways of playing out. If I was to give it a name I would call it a “coffee friendship.”

The late John J. Gilmore

The late John J. Gilmore

We had lots of coffee at lots of places, first thing in the morning: Marnick’s or Blue Sky or Mary’s in Stratford Center, or Starbucks. He wasn’t that fond of Starbucks. The Irish in him saw the popular coffee chain as too “hoity toity.” But I like Starbucks, and John would occasionally give in.

My using the phrase “give in” about John is a better way to describe our friendship. John and I originally met when he was a reporter at the then-Bridgeport Post, and I had begun my Chamber of Commerce career at what was then the Bridgeport Area Chamber of Commerce.

I was given the job of giving the “area” in the Chamber’s name its first physical manifestation — the Stratford Chamber of Commerce. John was covering Stratford for the Post — the genesis of our friendship.

 

Always told you the truth

He was a tough and a brutally observant friend — a friend who always told you the truth, whether you wanted to hear it or not, or whether the time was “right.”

John, a big man, had enviable drive and determination; he was never afraid to tell you what he needed and what he was looking for. John was one of those dark and brilliant Irish types, sometimes dark and foreboding, sometimes ebullient and piercing, depending on the coffee.

He had been tackling a brutally tough career concept after leaving reporting. He became a marketer for lawyers and politicians. Not easy.

You couldn’t find a better storyteller than John Gilmore. It was enthralling hearing his stories about the antics and the political smarts of former Bridgeport Mayor John Mandanici, or the murder he was researching — a murder that happened in Bridgeport at the turn of the century.

 

Stories with intensity

He self-published a mystery and worked tirelessly to the end to sell it. There were lots of stories. John would launch into those stories with intensity — an intensity that only an Irish boy from the Bronx could muster.

We both knew those kinds of politics. We both understood the kind of nefarious but vivid machinations only politics can muster. John didn’t like my way of political operation, and he was never loath to tell me so. But his acute observations of me couldn’t be ignored — not if I wanted to be better than I am.

 

Human and always a great mystery

The shock of John’s death is that I considered him immortal. The idea of John and death was not possible. I will miss him. There was a giant heart in the middle of John, and those who knew him, knew about his heart, and his smarts and his drive.

Gruff and smart and full of heart, and honest, and a Bronx boy, and a dark intelligence, and being Irish. All human and always a great mystery.

I shall miss him, and I shall think of him every time I have a cup of coffee.

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OBITUARY:

John J. Gilmore, 62

Stratford Democratic Town Committee member, journalist, teacher, marketing consultant

John J. Gilmore, 62, of Stratford, devoted husband to soul mate Mary Moran Gilmore, passed away Wednesday, Sept. 10 in St. Vincent’s Medical Center.

A proud son of the Bronx, N.Y., John graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisc., with a degree in journalism. John became fascinated by the politics of his childhood growing up in the Bronx as well as the political guys and dolls he’d cover in Bridgeport, Conn., during a long career in the field of newspaper journalism.

John began his newspaper career as a reporter on the staff of the Long Branch Daily Record in New Jersey. In the mid-1970s, he was hired by the Bridgeport Post, predecessor to the Connecticut Post. John provided insight into the political power structure of Connecticut’s largest city, winning awards for journalistic excellence as a reporter and columnist.

He would also serve as the paper’s business editor. John also taught journalism as an adjunct professor at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn.

After a successful tenure in journalism, he transitioned nicely to a second career as a marketing and communications consultant who worked in diverse professional services environments. During his career, he oversaw marketing activities for national and international law firms in New York City, Washington, D.C. and London.

Locally, he most recently worked as a consultant for the law firm Berchem, Moses & Devlin in Milford and Westport. He also served as president of Law Firm Media Professionals, a national association of law firm marketing specialists.

During his career, John also worked as a public relations executive at firms in New York City, and as a communications consultant for political candidates in Connecticut.

Writing, however, continued to be a passion and in 2010 he fulfilled his dream with the publishing of a novel, Cocaineros Duel, chronicling a fictional retired police detective rebuilding his life in Costa Rica after the murder of his wife. Some of his characters were based upon his years as a Bridgeport reporter.

John was also active in his local community, serving on the Stratford Democratic Town Committee. He was a longtime member of the St. Patrick’s Scholarship Committee and an active member of the Gaelic-American Club in Fairfield, working as a playwright with the Clan na Gael Players and playing traditional Irish music on the tin whistle with the Shamrogues.

John was predeceased by his parents, George and Lillian Gilmore of Windsor, Vt.

Survivors, in addition to his wife, include his sister, Ellen Nicewander and her husband Merrit Nicewander of Plano, Texas; brother-in-law James Kevin Moran, and brother-in-law John Moran and his wife Michele Moran, and nephews Anthony and Ryan Moran, all of Bridgeport, Conn.; Christopher Nicewander and his wife Raquel Nicewander of Cumming, Ga.; Jennifer Nicewander of Dallas, Texas; Heather Putman and her husband Dr. Philip Putman of Huron, Ohio; and Merrit Nicewander Jr. and his wife Dr. Joy Nicewander of San Antonio, Texas. Also, several grandnieces and grandnephews. John is also survived by a beloved extended family in Ireland.

A Mass of Christian Burial took place Monday, Sept. 15 at St. James Roman Catholic Church, 2070 Main St., Stratford. Calling hours were held Sunday, Sept. 14 in Larson’s Funeral Home, 2496 North Ave., Bridgeport. Burial in Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Trumbull.

Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the St. Patrick’s Scholarship Fund, through c/o Merit Insurance, 1 Enterprise Drive, Suite 310, Shelton, CT 06484.

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