Remembering Bob Gilmore

The legacy of one of Peoria’s greatest citizens will be built upon for generations to come.

by Laura Cullinan, Gilmore Foundation
Bob Gilmore
One of the greatest of the Greatest Generation, Bob gave us all a roadmap for how to live a good life. Portrait by David Vernon

The Peoria area lost a great friend in September, but Robert “Bob” Gilmore’s legacy will continue through his family, friends, those who loved him, and the foundation he set up in 2009. Bob’s storied career is fascinating, his life is remarkable, and his humble manner and generosity speak volumes. He quietly touched thousands of lives in the area, donating $1 million to the Peoria Riverfront Museum and hundreds of thousands to other groups including Easterseals, Wheels O’ Time Museum, Children’s Home, Dream Center, Children’s Hospital of Illinois, Peoria Public Schools, Peoria Symphony Orchestra, Midwest Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, ART Inc. and Neighborhood House, among many others. 

“We are deeply saddened by Bob’s passing and extend our condolences to the entire Gilmore family,” notes Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Jim Umpleby. “Bob’s dedication to Caterpillar began on the shop floor as a machinist apprentice and eventually took him to the boardroom. We’re forever grateful for his leadership.”

In addition to his generous philanthropic activities and decades-long career at Caterpillar Inc., Bob Gilmore was an avid outdoorsman.
In addition to his generous philanthropic activities and decades-long career at
Caterpillar Inc., Bob Gilmore was an avid outdoorsman.

A Local Legend
Born in 1920, Bob Gilmore grew up in Peoria during the Great Depression. He graduated from high school in 1938, landed an apprenticeship at Caterpillar, and worked in the shop before enlisting and serving 36 missions as a B-17 Air Force navigator in Europe. Returning to Caterpillar in 1946, he quickly ascended the management ranks. His philanthropy in the Peoria area has benefited thousands of people through the Gilmore Foundation, which supports charities, cultural initiatives and job creation. 

Established in 2009, the Gilmore Foundation supports the development and improvement of Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties. Areas of focus include: 

  • Enhancing culture related to art, music, dance, history and theater; 
  • Improving society through youth development, human services, abuse prevention, education and shelters; and
  • Job creation through capital improvement projects which assist in the development of the community’s infrastructure.

Earlier this year, Bob donated $1 million to charities in the Peoria area to combat economic hardships brought on by COVID-19. The gift has been granted in two parts—the first part, given in June, addressed hunger to allow the most vulnerable populations in the Tri-County Area to have improved access to healthy food. The second part, given this fall, will aid in getting Peoria Public Schools children safely back into the classroom. His $200,000 donation will be spent on a rapid COVID-19 testing regimen that will allow students to return to in-school learning by early November. Even in his absence, Bob Gilmore continues to give back to the community he loved so much.

Roadmap for Life
One of the greatest of the Greatest Generation, Bob gave us all a roadmap for how to live a good life. He loved Peoria, and was deeply committed to its success. We can work together to build on Bob’s legacy—to, in effect, be a “Bob”—and make Peoria and our region a better place to live, work and play. PM

Laura Cullinan, JD, is executive director of the Gilmore Foundation. For more information, visit gilmorefndn.org. To read an in-depth interview with Bob Gilmore, visit peoriamagazines.com/ibi/2015/jul/bob-gilmore.

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