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 to Charles and Alice Gilmore, the fourth of 12 children. 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," Leo 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." He was first at Leavenworth, then underwent technical training in Amarillo, Salt Lake City 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 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 spent 18 months in Italy before the war in Europe was over.
After being in a car wreck that broke his back, he got a medical discharge, then received his high school and college diplomas simultaneously. He got a job teaching at Mindenmines, Missouri.
"I taught there until Thanksgiving, then taught the rest of the year at West Mineral," he 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 served as Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dodge City. Leo 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."By the time Richard was born, Ronald was a priest, so he baptized his baby brother," Leo said.
(Reprinted in part from an article by Nikki Patrick in The Morning Sun.)