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Published: 9/13/2007

Tiffin service shows Gillmor's human side

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Karen Gillmor and her three sons, Paul Michael, left, Connor, and Adam, watch the honor guard place U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor's coffin into a hearse for the journey to Pleasant Union Cemetery in his hometown of Old Fort in Seneca County. Karen Gillmor and her three sons, Paul Michael, left, Connor, and Adam, watch the honor guard place U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor's coffin into a hearse for the journey to Pleasant Union Cemetery in his hometown of Old Fort in Seneca County.
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Gillmor Gillmor
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U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor s coffin is carried by an honor guard after his funeral in Tiffin. U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor s coffin is carried by an honor guard after his funeral in Tiffin.
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The cortege with the body of U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor crosses the Sandusky River as it leaves downtown Tiffin for the cemetery.
The cortege with the body of U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor crosses the Sandusky River as it leaves downtown Tiffin for the cemetery.
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TIFFIN - They called U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor a congressman, a senator, a husband, and a father.

They referred to him as "Paul," "Skip," and "Gillmo."

But no matter who eulogized Mr. Gillmor during a two-hour memorial service in Tiffin prior to his burial yesterday, nearly all said he was a friend.

Mr. Gillmor, 68, who died Sept. 5, apparently from injuries suffered in a fall at his townhouse in Arlington, Va., was laid to rest at Pleasant Union Cemetery in his hometown of Old Fort.

Prior to interment, about 500 people filled Camden Falls Reception and Conference Center for a memorial service, where friends and family members shared their stories about the Republican whose body was placed in a flag-draped casket.

The tone for the service was set by U.S. Rep. David Hobson (R., Ohio), who described Mr. Gillmor as an affable man who endeared himself to so many people he met.

"Paul had a special way about him," Mr. Hobson said. "When he met you, he treated you like a friend, and he responded as a friend. You always had a good feeling after speaking with the congressman."

Mr. Hobson was joined in eulogizing Mr. Gillmor by friends and colleagues Mike Kerschner, president and chief executive officer of Gillmor Financial Services; Wood County Commissioner Tim Brown; F. Dominic Dottavio, president of Heidelberg College; George Kidd, president emeritus of Tiffin University; Sandusky County Republican Chairman Adam Greenslade; self-described lobbyist Gary Koch, and James Tilling, former chief executive officer of the Ohio Senate.

Also standing to speak were Mr. Gillmor's uncle, Ralph Gillmor, and cousin Don Witter.

Mr. Gillmor's cousin also spoke of the duo's escapades on a small rowboat called the "Jolly Roger" as teenagers, terrorizing beachgoers on the beaches east of Port Clinton with squirt guns, and of the time he and his cousin moved to Lake Placid, N.Y., one summer and barely made enough money to live.

"You know, today was so much more fun than yesterday," said Mrs. Gillmor, comparing yesterday's memorial to the service held for her husband Tuesday in the Statehouse atrium.

Following those eulogies, which were filled with both laughter and sadness, Mr. Gillmor's widow, Karen, stood and thanked the packed room of family, friends, and others for their outpouring of support.

"Yesterday was so formal, and although everyone who spoke knew Paul well, this is so much more from the heart," she said.

Mrs. Gillmor then shared with the mourners that President Bush phoned her three times from Australia after her husband died.

"The third time he said, 'Karen, I want you to bring your boys to the Oval Office,'•" Mrs. Gillmor recalled while trying to duplicate the President's Texas twang. "Now I know you won't do it because you think I'm too busy, but I'm not. You bring those boys because I want to put my arm around them.'•"

Perhaps the lightest moments were provided by Mr. Witter, who spoke about growing up with Mr. Gillmor in Old Fort in the 1940s and '50s.

Mr. Witter said most people addressed Mr. Gillmor as "Skippy" back then, though the congressman's mother usually called him "Gene" or "Genie," which was short for his middle name, Eugene.

"We were too proud to come home, and so we struggled to exist," Mr. Witter said.

"We lived in an attic room, which cost each of us $4 a week, with breakfast. We ate peanut-butter sandwiches with two-day-old bread, and we both lost weight.

"The ironic thing was that, parked out in the parking lot, Skip had a Corvette and I had an Austin-Healey, and we couldn't afford to put gas in them."

A politician who spent 21 years in the Ohio Senate and 18 in Congress, Mr. Gillmor's life in the public sector was remembered as well.

The service began with replays of Mr. Gillmor's campaign television commercials shown on screens throughout the room, and was filled throughout with anecdotes of his years focusing on his constituents rather than the spotlight of a public office.

Commissioner Brown, who once worked on Mr. Gillmor's staff, referred to the congressman as a mentor and teacher.

Mr. Tilling, who served as Mr. Gillmor's chief of staff in the state Senate, described him as a boss who commanded loyalty, as a legislator who didn't seek partisanship, and as a politician who stood by his own convictions.

"In Paul's case, he had his values down," Mr. Tilling said. "He got them from his family, he got them from this community and this area, and there was no need to change."

The service's closing prayer was offered by one of Mr. Gillmor's three sons, Paul Michael, who prayed: "May the road rise beneath you. May the wind blow at your back. May the sun shine warmly on your face. May the rain fall softly upon your fields. And, until we meet again, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand."

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com or

419-410-5055.



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