James Lee Gilmore (Jimmy Lee, Bear, Jim) passed away peacefully surrounded by his children on March 6, 2023, after a long and fierce fight against lung cancer. He was 86 years old.
Jim was the first of four children born to the late James P. Gilmore and E. Marie Gilmore (Bostic), on September 8th, 1936, in Belle, WV. The Gilmore Family moved to Fort Myers, FL in 1950, from Nitro, WV, where the family left behind coal mining and embarked on the adventures of shrimp fishing. At the young age of fourteen, Jim joined his father, “Captain Red” out on the shrimp boats. One can only imagine the incredible journeys they encountered being coal miners from West Virginia navigating the gulf waters looking for that elusive Pink Gold. After that first year of hard work on the boats, Jim attended Ft. Myers High School, where he was a standout football player earning the nickname “Bear”. He was elected “Outstanding Lineman” and selected to be a player in the All-State team his junior year. As a senior, they again selected him to the All-State Team and voted the MVP Outstanding Greenie. Jimmy Lee “Bear” Gilmore was inducted into the Ft. Myers Football Hall of Fame in its inaugural year in 1994. He was incredibly proud to be a Fort Myers Greenie(Class of 1955).
After graduation, Jim enlisted in the Coast Guard as a radioman (RM2-3) on the White Sumac, Sagebrush, and Pandora Cutters. He made lifelong friends, and many great memories, and gained the skills that furthered many future endeavors. Jim joined the Fort Myers Police Department from 1959 to 1961. Leaning back onto his Morse Code skills from his Coast Guard days, Jim joined the Mercury Space Program, employed by RCA, stationed on the Tracking Station on Ascension Island off the coast of Brazil. This experience then led to a civilian position with Philco in Thailand, where he was an integral part of establishing the communications network for our Armed Forces in Vietnam.
Jim returned home to Fort Myers and bought the Siesta Isles Motel on Fort Myers Beach. A few years later, Jim sold the motel to start a new career and a family. He had a lengthy career in retail loss prevention for Maas Brothers, Burdines, and J. Byrons. Throughout his life, Jim was a mentor and coach to countless young men, shaping their lives through sports across Cape Coral/Fort Myers and Southeast Florida. He always had a love of music (you could hear him playing his keyboards way into the late hours) and a passion for woodworking. His family has many of his handmade heirlooms that will be forever cherished. Jim was an avid animal lover and often took in all the strays and injured creatures that found their way into his heart.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Shirley Marie Ayers. He is survived by his brother William G. Gilmore (Peggy) and sister Mary E. Darby, his Uncle Jimmy Paul Bostic , his children Diane F. Horstman, Jamie L. Gilmore Yancey (John), and James Gilmore II (Nikoly), as well as many beloved cousins, nieces, and nephews. He loved his three grandchildren, Darby L. Horstman, Emma V. Yancey, and Grayson J. Yancey, more than anything in the world. There was no greater love for him than the love of family.
Jim held many titles in his life, from the “World’s Greatest Coastie” to an entrepreneur, but his favorite role was being a father. He loved nothing more than spending time with his children and grandchildren. Jim was always there for them, whether cheering them on at their games, helping them build a home, or preparing for a job interview. He often said, “Can it be done? Then YOU can do it.” Thank you for always believing in us, Dad.
He was a loving father, brother, and grandfather. Those who knew him will forever cherish his memory.
Semper Paratus ⚓️
Rest in peace, Dad ❤️
We love you.
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