Pastor Gives Back To The Lord
EL CAJON — Robert Gilmore just turned 81. At the age of 12, he made Eagle Scout and painted a bust statue of the “Old Man and the Sea” that still sits on a shelf of prized possessions in his living room.
One of the few remaining World War II veterans in East County, he reflected upon what led him into a lifetime of service to his country and his God.
He was in ROTC for four years in high school and served his country in the Navy for next 20 years after that.
While in boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Facility in Illinois, he participated in over 500 parachute jumps from airplanes flying at 5,000 feet and has titanium in his hips to show for the stress of those multiple landings.
Gilmore, now a robust man with a thick mane of silver hair and a beard to match, reached the level of commander on the USS Swordfish, a submarine with a crew of over 100 that saw service in the war.
After retiring from the Navy, Gilmore graduated valedictorian with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Northern Colorado.
He has taught swimming and scuba diving at Grossmont College in El Cajon.
He has accomplished many things in his life, but the one that touches him the most is the work he performed as a minister after the military.
A Navy chaplain on the Swordfish inspired Gilmore to pursue the ministry. “I liked what he did for people,” Gilmore related. “He was very caring. You could tell that (he) affected the men. We were all very frightened, and he made us feel more secure.”
After he retired from the Navy and completed his sociology degree, Gilmore earned a Master’s degree from the Illif School of Theology in Denver, Colo.
He worked for the next 10 years as a Methodist minister, where he preached from the Bible, visited parishioners, performed wedding ceremonies and comforted those grieving at burial services.
What prompted Gilmore to go from being a Navy commander to a minister? Part of the reason was a sense of guilt at having taken lives through serving in the military.
After he retired from the Navy, Gilmore wanted to reach out in a different way, and he did.
“I was of great service, and I just loved that,” he said. When he was asked why he wanted to become a minister, Gilmore wiped a trail of tears from his face and said, “Because I wanted to help people.”