Eddie, at Christmas 2012, with dear friends.
It had been at least 5 years since I’d seen Edward Charles Gilmore, best known as “Eddie” to his wide array of friends in Bryan-College Station, but learning of his passing this morning on a friend’s Facebook post generated a few memories from over 20 years of seeing this larger-than-life truly good soul at the top of his game, living life large. With his beautiful head of white hair and trimmed white moustache, I had to smile at the impression he left on all those around him. He was a tailored, dapper gentleman, no matter what the occasion.
The first thing you saw about this amazing man was the imposing figure he posed; he was tall, built like a trim offensive lineman, and he walked fast whenever he was headed somewhere. The second thing you would likely see was that he was usually in the company of his beloved wife, Virginia, the genuine light of his life. One family nickname for her is ‘Shorty,’ but to be fair, standing next to Eddie, everyone is short.
Eddie and Virginia were best friends first before they were married, and in all the years I was around them, they spoke to one another with such great regard, respect, and just a fun little bit of good-natured teasing, but never a cross word. Virginia was the go-power that made Eddie able to be the social butterfly he was and that they were. This devoted couple loved music, dancing, sports, and their oldest and dearest friends. For the last three decades of his life, they were very much at home in Bryan, Texas. Others who knew him far better can cite his early career years and his love for Texas A&M, even though he graduated from another school.
In the 1970s and 1980s, if memory serves, Eddie had been a mover and shaker in the financial world of stocks and bonds in the Dallas area, and Virginia had worked for the same firm. Both were brilliant with numbers. Eddie’s razor-sharp memory was one of the most amazing things about this man.
To know Eddie means you know that he lived and breathed sports, 24/7. ESPN should have called him if they needed a fact-checker. In fact, there were a few times he’d talk to the TV, explaining how they should have known better than what they were saying, which was fun to watch when a gathering of friends would enjoy a sporting event together.
Eddie loved watching all the “NCIS” episodes when USA Network ran marathon viewing days during his retirement years. It didn’t matter how many times he’d seen them before, he’d willingly watch them again and again. He could probably recite all the dialog by heart, with his phenomenal memory.
I remember when, after years of trying, I’d finally made it past the preliminary rounds of the competition to be a contestant on “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?” I was headed to New York City to try out at ABC Studios there and in the event I made it past the semifinal round, I’d already planned ahead and asked Eddie to be my phone-a-friend should there be a sports question that I couldn’t answer. Between Eddie and Gene Joyce, the answer to any sports question ever considered could be answered right here in the Brazos Valley.
Eddie was absolutely thrilled that I’d asked him to be of counsel for me, and I felt confident that I’d be hauling back a ton of money if my big question revolved around sports! If only I’d been able to make it past the semifinals. A dear friend had gone with me to the audition to keep me company, and as we stood in line to get into the testing area, we saw how far back the competition stretched around the block for the chance to win.
So, my friend and I both got to take the test, a nice surprise; after it was over we marveled at the obscurity of some of the questions! Meaning, no we didn’t make the cut, ha. Eddie probably would have been the one to know all the answers to the entirely baffling questions on the written quiz, but not me. Anyway, for a long time afterwards, I acknowledged him by my greeting him with: “There’s my phone-a-friend!” He just beamed.
Eddie was a real savant when it came to sports and statistics. Some people are great with key knowledge of one sport, such as baseball. They will know everything about their favorite team or the sport as a whole. But Eddie had the entire sports gamut covered—baseball, basketball, football, you name it. He rooted for the Aggies and grumbled (just like a true Ag) if they weren’t playing up to their potential. His memory was phenomenal, matched only by his passion for life.
His razor-sharp wit also matched his memory during the best days of his life. He loved to watch all the major horse races on television and whenever he had the chance to visit horse racing tracks with friends during the height of racing season, he was front and center. One thing that made him so proud was when his dear friend named a thoroughbred race horse in his honor.
The other thing Eddie loved, as much as he loved Virginia, was something they loved together—great live music and dancing to it. When I say, “good dancers,” I’m not exaggerating. It was like watching Bryan-College Station’s version of Fred and Ginger. Country-western, their beloved 50s doo-wop music, no matter the genre, they glided around a dance floor with the greatest of ease. That was always so wonderful to see—like a master class in “how it’s done.” Then when they weren’t dancing, they were listening.
Locally, Eddie and Virginia were first to arrive and last to leave when live music of their choice was happening in town. One of their favorite musicians was pianist D.A. McDowell, and if he was at Christopher’s, they were too, and there was a mutual admiration society there. Other local bands knew the Gilmores as part of their supporters and encouragers of long-standing. They’d seen great performers who had launched their careers here before leaving town for bright lights and record deals.
The couple loved jazz and especially going to hear bands plays the blues. Eddie would always announce that Virginia’s favorite song was Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man,” and he’d make sure whatever band was performing in a club or other venue, that they played it for her if they took requests. That was a precious memory for sure. Another was Eddie’s love of lyrics, and he knew them all, which meant you might also find him singing a chorus of “Cherry Pie” with two other friends, on special occasions like a special birthday celebration for a friend who shared his June 24th birthday. It’s poignant that he “waited” to turn 82 before letting go the good fight.
The couple traveled extensively with dear friends over several decades, coast-to-coast, on land, air, and even by the sea. More recently, there was the fun of cherished annual trips to “wine country” in Napa Valley, California with friends and Eddie brought prized “souvenirs” back home and enjoyed the process of selecting favorites.
Golf was another of Eddie’s loves. First, he played regularly at Briarcrest Country Club, and then when beautiful Miramont Country Club was built, Eddie and his cart could be found as soon as the greens were open. He loved that course in particular. I believe he even played at St. Andrew’s in Scotland at least once.
The core travel group included four musketeers among the men and their beloved spouses and what was so nice to see was how well they got along for decades, an accomplishment of its own accord. Ultimately, at one point, a few years back, Eddie had a health challenge that separated him from more frequent contact with his dear friends, but as I learned recently, they didn’t separate from him.
When he was in his prime here as an investment broker, Eddie balanced work, family time, friends, and fun in a very special way. He made time for you if you needed to talk, and he was a loyal friend who could maintain a confidence. His friends and Virginia were his family and he cherished each one of them like they were precious jewels. He also cared very deeply about children. One of Eddie’s favorite local charities with whom he was a very active volunteer was the Boys and Girls Club of Bryan.
He was an active participant and volunteer and he was honored in his lifetime for his service to this outstanding local organization. He maintained memberships in other organizations as well (if memory serves, he was a proponent of the downtown Bryan boxing club), but he was pretty private about his volunteering. He had a heart the size of Texas, though, even though he tried to keep that fact to himself. You could just tell that about him.
In his final years, Eddie struggled with memory issues, and yet, his dearest friends visited him faithfully and helped him remember and filled in the gaps that they could, for as long as the memory would hold the facts. In recent years, I didn’t have occasion to see him, but I understand from one closest to him that his years of faithful friendship to others were the best investments he’d ever made in his life, as they were there faithfully with him and for him.
In life that’s really all anyone can ask for, to be remembered well, even if you can’t recall it. It’s knowing who your real friends are, when the chips are down, and to know they’re the ones who won’t give up on you, even if you have lost the sense of who you are, or who you used to be. In the family room of the home of one of Eddie’s best friends is a pillow embroidered with the phrase “Old friends are the best friends.” I believe this to be true.
When the day and time comes that we can no longer be ourselves, or recall the most important parts of our lives, we rely on those friends and loved ones who comprise the fabric of our lives, who will forever be our memory for us. They’ll help us remember when. They’ll have scrapbooks full of pictures and go over them with us, and help us remember who we were and who we are. They’ll play the songs we love, sing the words to us and with us and for us. Most importantly of all, they’ll grace us with their presence, simply being there with us.
They pray for us in good times and in bad. And that, undoubtedly leads to the greatest gift that one friend can give another—the gift of time. Eddie Gilmore gave his generously to his friends, always, unconditionally. His love for Virginia was unceasing and remains timelessly intact. He will always be there to watch out for her, so she need not fear a thing.
Godspeed, Eddie, and please scope out the best music venues for the rest of us, will you? We’re counting on you to save the best table for us. And there, the bands will play on, where the music and the dancing never ends, where love—like good music—overflows. The song written by your life here on Earth will play on forever, in the minds and hearts of all who were fortunate enough to know you.
Edward C. Gilmore
June 24, 1935 – June 27, 2017