In January 2024, the IBMA Foundation received a $30,000 donation from the estate of Benjamin Gilmore, designated for the Fletcher Bright Memorial Grant for Young Musicians (age 21 and younger), the Sally Ann Forrester Scholarship for female bluegrass musicians attending college, and for the Arnold Shultz Fund which encourages more participation in bluegrass from people of color.
Ben Gilmore, of Winthrop and South Whidbey Island, Washington, passed away mid-April 2022 at the age of 66 from natural causes. According to his sister, Janet Gilmore, Ben was a sweet-spirited man who hid his vulnerabilities in acerbic wit. Busy, quick, and nomadic from an early age, Ben was fiercely independent and incisively blunt, yet he enjoyed challenging himself with others in outdoor feats of skill, whether snow camping, skiing, mountain climbing, marathons, or long bicycle excursions. From an early age he was a quick study with painting, ceramics, and carpentry, activities in which he made his living and shared community with fellow artists and woodworkers.
Gilmore infused his life with kindred musicians and played numerous stringed instruments, sang, and recorded some of his own songs. He was a regular for many years at the summer Nimble Fingers Bluegrass & Old Time Music Workshop and Festival in Sorrento, BC—where he refreshed friendships and repertoires. He often visited another cadre of pickers in the Battleground, Washington, area on his travels throughout the Pacific Northwest. He regularly sought refuge in places like Breitenbush in Oregon’s Mt. Jefferson area, and Spirit Lake before Mt. St. Helens blew her top. He taught youth ropes courses on Whidbey, supervised Outward Bound kids in Colorado’s Rockies, and supported ceramics programs at Holden Village on Lake Chelan, where he also volunteered skills in carpentry and ski trail blazing.
Ben spent his first year of life commuting between Eugene and Portland, Oregon, with his architect parents. He began elementary school when the family returned to Eugene permanently, and he graduated from Churchill High School. In his early teens he spent a year in Tasmania, Australia, on another parental architectural junket.
After high school Ben completed the 1976 cross-country Bike Centennial trip, and he set forth on adventures with friends who had a taste for skiing and back country in the Rockies. He combined coursework from four different universities to graduate in 1985 from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a BA and teaching certification in the sciences. He celebrated by experiencing France on extended bike trips and snowy mountain climbs with new friends, then returned to work in Colorado.
Next, Ben set up housekeeping in Whidbey, Washington, where he built several small buildings and kept busy potting, painting, building, making music, and kayaking. He moved to Winthrop, Washington, in 2000, developing a wide circle of friends; volunteered building skills in 2004 to a Thailand community’s earthquake and tsunami recovery; and in 2014 participated in North Central Washington seasonal fire duty. A person with high societal, political, and environmental ideals, Ben often played the curmudgeon, was agonizingly witty, and conversed with trusted family and friends over the latest in human foibles and indignities.
Ben enjoyed his life of community in adventure, artistic expression, worldwide travel, and service, and he valued many friendships across the globe. He was predeceased by his parents and many pets, especially the loyal dog Whidbey.
Sources: Neptune Society-Spokane, Methow Valley News, and South Whidbey Island News – obituary authored by Ben’s sister, Janet C. Gilmore