When we moved to Dobbs Ferry 30 years ago, my wife, Linda, raised a Catholic and looking for a spiritual home, went searching for a church. (I, a pig-headed nonbeliever, wanted none of it.) She eventually found her way to South Presbyterian Church — or South Church, as it’s known.
Linda would go early for choir, and I would drop off our children, then about 5 and 9. Gradually I heard more from Linda and others about the minister, Joe Gilmore, and ventured in. It was an excellent decision, because the friends we made through the church — all, indirectly, because of Joe — became among our closest friends in the village. It was a great loss to everyone when he retired. (After Joe's death a few weeks ago, our daughter said, “Joe was the only reason I got anything out of religion. I always saw him as what Christianity was intended to be, in its purest form.”)
For me and I’m sure for many others, he was one of the most important people in the village. We shared many things, including a love of music. (The church's yearly galas featured some top professional musicians.) We also shared a love of hiking, with one memorable trek to one of my favorite spots, Wittenberg Mountain in the Catskills. Even for me, the heathen, he awakened some semblance of a spiritual side.
He made so many contributions, through his prison work, through being a prime mover behind Midnight Run, which for decades has taken food and clothing to New York’s homeless. He always said it wasn’t a gift — “This,” he once said, “is a piece of work that has to do with justice and not charity.” And he introduced us to wonderful poetry, most memorably the Mary Oliver poem ending “…what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
He made plenty out of his wild and precious life. He will be sorely missed.
Hubert B. Herring