Allen & Rikki Gilmer
in memory of Jerry D. Gilmer*, AUSTIN
Love of the Southwest, border agriculture and commerce, and art ran deep in Jerry’s veins. As a boy, he lived on a farm on North Loop with his family and won grand champion awards for his sheep at the New Mexico and Texas state fairs during the early 1940s. Jerry was taken under the wing of a prominent rancher, who invited him to summer at his ranch in northern New Mexico in his early teens, where he developed a love for New Mexico’s mountainous vistas.
After graduating in the early 1950s from Texas Western College with a degree in civil engineering, Jerry began his professional career as a field engineer in New Mexico with El Paso Natural Gas. Upon moving back to El Paso in the late 1950s, He got his real start in business by selling his car so he could make a down payment on a laundromat. Thus began his lifelong career of accumulating and managing commercial real estate. In 1960, he married Kay Lassiter Thompson, and they started a family.
Besides his business acumen, Jerry also showed a talent in architecture: He designed and built the family home on Kerby Avenue near Rim Road after he left the gas company. That home became a salon of sorts, his son Allen remembers, where artists’ works were displayed and sold, sometimes for $50 down and payments of $10 per month. One of Jerry’s best friends was Bambi Ellis, the subject of one of Tom Lea’s portraits. Bambi’s faither, Freemont Ellis, gave Tom and his first wife, Nancy, a plot of land near Santa Fe on which they built a modest house.
Although he did not paint, Jerry respected painters greatly. He valued his friendships with artists like Fremont Ellis, Russell Waterhouse, Eugene Thurston, Leola and Bill Freeman, Novella King, Sally Jacobs, and Hal Marcus, whose works hung on his walls as personal mementos of those whom he esteemed. His love for Southwestern art never faded.