Oklahoma City lost a great friend on Monday.
Joan Gilmore, who arrived in Oklahoma City in 1952 as a young reporter originally from Waukegan, Illinois, died at age 94 just days shy of her May 14 birthday.
Over the course of a career spanning more than half a century, Gilmore was more than just a journalist. She was a true supporter of the Oklahoma City community, of arts and culture across the state, and especially of the people of Oklahoma. She was a reporter and columnist at The Daily Oklahoman for 28 years and then put in 30 more at The Journal Recordwhere her “Around Town” pieces kept readers informed of important daily occurrences and things to look forward to in the city.
“Joan Gilmore was an institution at The Journal Record and a fierce advocate for the people of Oklahoma,” said Joe Dowd, Journal Record editor. “Her voice dela was as authoritative as it was congenial, and she was a trusted source of information for thousands of readers for decades.”
Helen Sanger Wallace, a friend and colleague, said Gilmore was good at her job because she enjoyed it so much.
“Joan wrote about every happening in Oklahoma City at one time or the other. She covered fashion and parties, and interviewed movie stars and politicians with such ease and she loved being a part of the social scene,” Wallace said. “We lost a good one today, Joan Gilmore, my first editor at The Oklahoman and my mentor through the years.”
Gilmore helped to found Leadership Oklahoma City and was deeply involved in community organizations ranging from the Oklahoma City Ballet to the Children’s Hospital Foundation. As she was being considered for induction into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame, another friend of hers, Marion Paden, described her as a “rock star” who made her business to challenge the status quo.
“Joan and I were friends and neighbors for over 25 years. From the beginning, I was inspired by her drive and determination, her commitment to her community, and her unfailing efforts to advance and support women. There isn’t a single significant event or organization in our community that she didn’t help to create, promote or support,” Paden said. “If I was asked to help write a book about her life, I would add a sentence or two about how she beat esophageal cancer, how she was quick to send a note of thanks, and how she loved her husband Al and so many of us so very dearly. I was so fortunate and very grateful to be her friend.”
According to an article published at the time Gilmore won a Lifetime Award from the Journal Record, she covered everything from backyard barbecues to a boxing match in New York’s Madison Square Garden to a fashion show in Europe. She wrote more than 1,500 feature stories, covered more than 10,000 weddings, and wrote more than 1 million words to benefit the Oklahoma City community.
“I came to Oklahoma City as a ‘Damned Yankee’ but it didn’t take too long to become a real Okie,” Gilmore wrote in his final column for the Journal Record in August 2020. “Reporters sometimes get special treatment. I can recall petting a cheetah, feeding a rhinoceros, riding a camel in Morocco, chatting with Tom Selleck at our own Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center and riding in the Oklahoma submarine.
“God was good when He led me to Oklahoma City in 1952 and led me toThe Oklahomanand then to the smart business newspaper,The Journal Record. My career has been so much more exciting and satisfying than I could have thought and I will miss all of myJournal Recordreaders. I hope you’ll miss me, too.”