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Departed hometown hero Dorothy Gilmer

Dorothy Gilmer, although born in Worcester, England, called Mountain City home. Spending her life taking care of others, she passed away June 6, 2011 at the age of 96. Gilmer, who had no children of her own, has left a lasting mark upon the many people she gathered close to her heart and her home.
Gilmer knew from an early age that she wanted to be a nurse. After training, she found herself at the age of 17 working in Liverpool Baby's Hospital. After working for a short time at a maternity hospital, Gilmer worked as a midwife, delivering babies in English homes, often walking or riding her bicycle in the very early and dark hours of the morning to reach her patients who lived out in the countryside. In 1940, the Germans began bombing London for 76 consecutive nights during The Blitz. It was at that time Gilmer decided it was time to join Queen Alexandria's Imperial Nursing Service.
In 1942, now a nurse serving in the military, she found herself upon a ship en route to North Africa when a German torpedo hit the ship, killing many on board. At that time, as she sat in a lifeboat for eight hours waiting to be rescued, Gilmer gave her life to God. “I gave my life to the Lord that night on that ship. I promised Him that if He would spare me, I would spent the rest of my life serving Him,” said Gilmer in a 1994 article in The Tomahawk. Despite heavy losses, the survivors made it to their ultimate destination, a tent hospital in Algiers where 200 injured soldiers were waiting for their arrival.
Gilmer, who served in the military from 1942 to 1946, served on an ambulance train that transported injured soldiers throughout Europe for six months before being stationed in Naples, Milan and finally back to England. Although she was home and no longer in the service, she never forgot any of the soldiers she helped nurse back to health and wondered where life had taken them. “During my service I met many soldiers. I remember one young Irish soldier who had lost both arms and legs. He was so grateful to be alive. He would say he could get artificial limbs, but he couldn't get another life,” Gilmer said in a 1998 interview with The Tomahawk, “For the many who served, were wounded and killed, I have nothing but admiration. They were all true heroes.”
Gilmer and her mother ventured to Ontario, Canada, in 1948, after they decided to embark upon a new life. Gilmer met and married Hector Bishop, also from England. Bishop, previously married, had four children. She continued her nursing career in Canada. Emigrating to the United States, Gilmer and her husband moved to Kentucky, where she was part of a frontier nursing program. She would travel by jeep or by horse to reach her patients. After a short stint in California, she and her husband moved to Sarasota, Florida where Gilmer worked for 20 years. Hector Bishop passed away in 1972.
In 1975, Dorothy married her second husband, Jim Gilmer, who was originally from Kingsport, Tennessee. Gilmer's mother-in-law lived in Mountain City, and the Gilmers found some property in Laurel Bloomery. Soon, Tennessee was home. Sadly, Jim Gilmer died four and a half months after moving to Johnson County. At a loss, Gilmer returned to England for two months, planning to sell her property in Johnson County and move back to Florida. “I really didn't hardly know a soul here,” she said, “but the people were so nice to me that I finally decided to stay,” she said in her May 11, 1994 interview with The Tomahawk. Once again, Gilmer was back to work, this time spending 12 years at the Johnson County Hospital before it closed in 1988.
Gilmer worked in a physician's office prior to working at Mountain City's nursing home. Not only did she take these elderly patients under her wing, but she would help future nurses with the cost of tuition, books and living expenses. At one point, she shared her home with a young nurse who was in need of a place to stay.
Gilmer not only cared for the physical needs of her patients, but their spiritual and emotional needs as well. In the same 1998 interview, Director of Nursing at the nursing home, Debbie Hutchinson, recognized the special qualities that she had. “There's an instant bonding between Nurse Gilmer and our residents. She can often be heard offering words of encouragement and support. She's not only concerned with a resident's physical condition, but more importantly she's concerned about their spiritual and emotional needs. She comes by on her days off and takes residents to church with her, or will sit at the bedside of a dying patient and read the Bible or pray with them,” Hutchinson said. Gilmer spent more than 62 years as a nurse.
Gladys and Derl McCloud were close friends with Dorothy Gilmer for many years. According to Gladys, because of her caring and love for all, she was named Mother of the Year even though she had no children of her own. In her later years, Gladys said that she would travel on mission trips to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with members of her church family, Roan Creek Baptist Church. “Even to the day she died she was always doing something for somebody,” said Gladys. She was described by Gladys as someone with lots of energy as she continued to visit those in need. “Whatever she had belonged to everybody,” said Gladys.
Dorothy Gilmer will be missed by the many people whose lives she touched.