John Gilmore, Newspaperman, OIB Correspondent, Friend To Bridgeport

John Gilmore
John Gilmore

UPDATE: Services will take place Monday 10:30 a.m. at St. James Church, Stratford. Calling hours Sunday 3-7 p.m. at Larson Funeral Home, 2496 North Avenue.

He was a kid from The Bronx who ended up in Bridgeport as a young reporter for the Bridgeport Post in the mid 1970s. So many stories, so many memories from a scribe who could turn a phrase, walk the streets with the common man or walk into a boardroom with a chief executive. He loved politics and he loved the Bridgeport he covered for so many years. John J. Gilmore passed away on Wednesday leaving many friends and admirers and his wife Mary. He chronicled the characters and politicians in the city in many OIB commentaries. He was 62.

Gilmore had a way of taking you down when you deserved it and lifting you up when you most needed it, even if you did not deserve it. He was tough and tender, candid and caring. And he was available when you needed him. I first met John Gilmore when I was 18 years ago as a young reporter for the newspaper. He by then, though still very young, had several years under his belt. I really didn’t have a clue. I worked for the morning Telegram, he for the afternoon Post, both owned by the Post Publishing Company, predecessor papers to the Connecticut Post. Although both papers were owned by the same company, there was competition among the respective staffs.

He knew City Hall. I was trying to learn it. He wrote a story about the mayor for the afternoon paper. I was told by the morning editor to follow up. So when I walked into the newsroom to start my late afternoon shift he was nearly ending his day. I dared to ask him for a source on his story. He did not hesitate, “Look, kid, if you want to be in this business don’t ever ask a reporter for the name of a source!”

I shuffled off meekly. But that was Gilmore. He wasn’t doing it to be mean. It was his way to instill the reality of journalism. Sources are like gold. Never give them up. Gilmore never gave up sources and never gave up on a friend in need.

He was also loaded with a twisted sense of humor.

Years ago, when schedules worked, we’d play golf. The phone rang. It was Gilmore. “Leonard, what’s shakin’ and bakin’? he’d say. “We have a 5:50 tee time.”

“5:50 p.m.?”

“No, that would be a.m.”

“John, last time I was up that early I never went to bed.”

Gilmore asked the pro shop for the earliest possible tee time on a Saturday. So, it’s 5:50 a.m. and we’re standing on the 10th tee of Fairchild Wheeler for an early bird special nine hole fee and the fog hadn’t even cleared. “John, why are we doing this?”

“I want to see if it’s possible to play nine holes of golf, eat breakfast and be back in bed before 8.”

I was back in bed before 8.

After a successful tenure in journalism, Gilmore segued nicely to a second career in public relations carving a niche marketing law firms. And Gilmore had knowledge for things both Bridgeport and The Bronx.

“What’s the only part of New York City connected to the continental United States?”  he’d ask. Think about it, does anyone know the answer? Of course, The Bronx, he’d say. And then he’d throw in a trivia of a famous person to which you’d never know the answer.

“Where’s Bat Masterson buried?”

“Okay, where?”

“The Bronx.”

Gilmore loved The Bronx and he also loved Bridgeport. Although he left journalism years ago for a second career in public relations, he still enjoyed the work of scribes and contributed many commentaries to OIB. Several years ago he fulfilled his dream of publishing a novel, Cocaineros Duel, and some of his characters are based upon his years as a Bridgeport reporter.

Here’s an OIB flashback in honor of Big John:

Retired police detective Frank Reardon is in Costa Rica rebuilding his life after the murder of his wife. Drawn into the investigation of a local murder, he is enmeshed in a web of mistaken identity, drug running and human trafficking involving an old girlfriend, Cheryl Norris. The murder victim is initially identified as Cheryl, but turns out to be a misguided friend who has stolen her identity. Cheryl discovers her friend Patty has been double-dealing a Central American drug gang. Now the cocaineros are pursuing Cheryl. Ever the cop, Frank sets out to rescue his old girlfriend and learn the ultimate reason for Patty’s death, a drug sting concocted in the halls of Washington, D.C. In his quest, Frank is aided by a collection of unlikely allies—a washed-up CIA operative, a U.S. counter-insurgency team, a mysterious Washington intelligence official, and the Cuban Air Force.

Big John explains: “Many of the characters are loosely based on people I know and/or covered while a reporter at The Bridgeport Post. A nugget of the real person is the starting point of how I built the characters. Of course, some nuggets were larger than others. There is a little of some people and a lot of others. My main character, Frank Reardon, abandons Bridgeport and returns like the traditional bad penny. And he’ll be back in Bridgeport in future books. Frank and the other characters are born from the places we all know, love and hate. I, like so many others who graced the halls of 410 State Street, was a street reporter. Me and my ilk patronized the diners and bars all day and all night. We ate wet roast beef sandwiches in the West End and had fish with special sauce at a Portuguese restaurant on Knowlton Street. We knew people who were killed and we knew the people who did the killing. The city has always been a weird version of Brigadoon where Peter Pan could be mayor.”



  1. My condolences to the Gilmore family. I was one of those admirers, he knew Bridgeport and knew how to get to the bottom of a story then write it in such a way we all understood. Yes Bridgeport, we did have good news reporters who knew how to do their job for the readers.

  2. This is a sad day for me–and thousands of others in the greater Bepo area who were informed, startled, disturbed and entertained by John’s words. He was an inspiration to me, and I relish the many conversations we had about the newsprint biz and writing in general.

    Very well writ, Mr. G. I am disconsolate.

  3. John was an incredibly kind man whose journalistic and reporting skills still go unmatched. I met him in 1983 while serving my first term as a council person. He was relentless in his coverage of political matters concerning the city council, and as a result every council person was under a microscope when it came to doing what they were elected to do. He never missed a trick because he took the time to know the performance of elected officials and, as a result of his vigilant reporting, the citizens of Bpt were always aware of the actions and decisions of the people they voted for. He was fair, but watch out if he suspected foul play. He missed nothing. On a personal note, while in the darkest time of my life, John made a personal phone call to me that encouraged me to get up and keep going. I will forever be grateful to him for caring on such a human level. My sympathy goes out to Mary and his family for this loss. He will always be a major part of my memories and I will miss him as so many others will. Thank you again, John!

  4. John Gilmore knew how to report and write about power.

    The Bridgeport community was well served by his reports on politics and government in The Bridgeport Post. He gave a damn.

    John was growly and gruff, compassionate and kind. He could be insightful in his copy and wicked funny–sometimes at the same time.

    I was his counterpart on The Bridgeport Telegram staff for seven of those years.

    We competed against each other. I never had so much fun in my life. Him beating me on stories. Me beating him on stories.

    This can be a combination that can build suspicions and envy and hatreds. It didn’t. He wouldn’t allow it.

    Trust me, we pushed each other. We’d get mad and ornery with each other. If he had my goat and I’d growl, he’d exclaim in stage shock: “Who me? Why James, I have no idea what you are talking about.”

    Yeah, right.

    I can hear him laughing at me about now.

    John Gilmore was a friend. He was a good man.

    1. Jim Callahan, thanks for letting us into your world with John Gilmore, it also reminded us of how lucky we were in having both you guys letting us know what was going on with those in power, something we are not getting today. Thanks.

  5. I don’t think John Gilmore and I would ever call our 35-year friendship a friendship. It had its own ways of communication and its own ways of playing out. If I were to give it a name I would call it a “coffee friendship.” We had lots of coffee at lots of places, first thing in the morning: Marnick’s or Blue Sky or Mary’s in Stratford Center, or Starbucks. He wasn’t that fond of Starbucks. The Irish in him saw the popular coffee chain as too “hoity toity.” But I like Starbucks and John would occasionally give in.
    My using the phrase “give in” about John is a better way to describe our friendship. John and I originally met when he was a reporter at the then-Bridgeport Post and I had begun my Chamber career at what was then the Bridgeport Area Chamber of Commerce. I was given the job of giving the “area” in the Chamber’s name its first physical manifestation–the Stratford Chamber of Commerce. John was covering Stratford for the Post; the genesis of our friendship.
    He was a tough and a brutally observant friend, a friend who always told you the truth, whether you wanted to hear it or not, or whether the time was “right.” John, a big man, had enviable drive and determination; he was never afraid to tell you what he needed and what he was looking for. John was one of those dark and brilliant Irish types, sometimes dark and foreboding, sometimes ebullient and piercing–depending on the coffee. He had been tackling a brutally tough career concept after leaving reporting–he became a marketer for lawyers and politicians. Not easy.
    You couldn’t find a better storyteller than John, it was enthralling hearing his stories about the antics and the political smarts of Mayor John Mandanici, or the murder he was researching; a murder that happened in Bridgeport at the turn of the century. He self-published a mystery and worked tirelessly, to the end to sell it. There were lots of stories. John would launch into those stories with intensity–an intensity only an Irish boy from the Bronx could muster. We both knew those kinds of politics; we both understood the kind of nefarious but vivid machinations only politics can muster. John didn’t like my way of political operation, he was never loath to tell me so. But his acute observations of me couldn’t be ignored, not if I wanted to be better than I am.
    The shock of John’s death is I considered him immortal–the idea of John and death was not possible. I will miss him–there was a giant heart in the middle of John, and those who knew him, knew about his heart, and his smarts and his drive. Gruff and smart and full of heart and honest and a Bronx boy and a dark Intelligence and being Irish. All human and always a great mystery.
    I shall miss him and I shall think of him every time I have a cup of coffee.

  6. John and I first met in a round of golf 30 years ago set up by a prominent local politician at the time. As we played the 18 holes, John asked me casual questions there was no way he would have known had he not researched me prior to playing the round. And this was before the Internet. At one point, I asked him whether he was a reporter or a skip tracer.

    Over the years we became pretty close friends. We shared the same background both ethnically and culturally. Maybe more so as we both came from NY but ended up in Bridgeport through marriage into a big, close Irish Catholic brood. No shock we were adamant in our belief we were on the right page and all these locals needed a dose of reality.

    We agreed, we laughed, we argued. He could be a royal, opinionated pain-the-ass who believed only he had the true read on things. Fortunately I and others were there to correct him on those points.

    Talked on the phone a couple of times in the past year or two but schedules always conflicted about getting together. Now I’m sorry I’ll never have the chance to agree with him or tell him how once again, he could not be more wrong.

    Good guy who I will miss.

  7. I am shocked and saddened by the death of John Gilmore. He helped me in every phase of my career up to and including my recent literary aspirations. I will just tell one story. I was editor of the Bridgeport News for a short time and he called and said he wanted to meet. Basically, he wanted to kick my ass. He felt I was too deferential to the powers that be and too talented to be writing a bunch of feel-good stories. He was a good friend and a great writer. I loved the fact he wrote his novel and he did tell me he was writing another. I hope he completed that book. It would be a great and fitting legacy for this man. My sincere condolences to all on this tragic news.

  8. I would like to respond to Ron Mackey’s comment about Bridgeport journalism. As a reporter, I can tell you he is absolutely right. I agree completely. And I also recognize I am part of the problem. I could write about this forever but this is a short e-mail. We need more John Gilmores. And Jim Clarks. And Jim Callahans. And Lennie Grimaldis as well.
    Best, Sully.

  9. I knew John Gilmore only through his writings in the Bridgeport Post. He brought to light many interesting facts about our city to the general public. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a place for a writer of his talent and conviction in today’s “Mainstream Media” although the need could never be greater.


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