William “Bill” “Sparky” Joseph Gilmore


William Joseph Gilmore Passed away on October 1, 2018 under Hospice care in Pueblo, Colorado. Bill was born January 16, 1944 in Alamosa Colorado to Earl and Jackie Gilmore. He was the third of four children. Billy Joe, as he was known in childhood was raised outside of Center Colorado on the family farm, on what was known as the Skoglund place, where his father rented. Bill was a member of both the Boy Scouts and of the DeMolay. During his junior year of high school His father bought their own farm in the Sargent area. This caused Bill to strike out on his own at an early age to be able to finish school in the Center District. Bill rented a small trailer house from in town and drove the school bus to help make ends meet.  Bill graduated from Center High School in 1963, completing all 13 years in the same school district.

In high school Bill was never seen without his camera. He loved taking pictures and was proud of being a photographer for the school paper and the annual staff. Bill took his love of photography to the professional level. He went to photography school in Enid Oklahoma and after completing school worked in a photo lab in the area for a while. Bill loved what he was doing but missed the San Luis Valley and his family. In 1965 father was hurt in an automobile accident and Bill moved home to finish the season and get the harvest in. After that year the Family farm was sold. This had ended Bill’s dreams of photography as a career but opened new doors for him.

Ralph Dabney and old family friend and local electrician, gave him his first electrical job and initial training as an electrician. This new field led him a few years later to go to work for the Summitville and Homestake mining companies. At his first day on the job at Summitville his foreman gave him the nickname “Sparky”, a handle that stuck his whole life.

In 1967 Bill meet and later married Ellabelle Spencer. They initially made their home in Monte Vista Colorado, while he continued to work at the mines. In 1968 they had a Son, their only child, Johnny. When the mine shut down Bill moved his family to Pueblo to find work. He went to work for Jonson’s Electric where he obtained his Master Electrical license. As the company held the maintenance contract for Parkview Hospital Sparky was assigned there, overseeing their maintenance department.

Following the death of his father Bill and family moved back to the San Luis Valley to be able to care for his mother. They made their home in Center and he found work with Valmont Irrigation, introducing him to the new center pivot industry, which would become Sparky’s lifelong “specialty” in the electrical field. A few years later Bill went out on his own and started his own business of Gilmore Electric. He did all types of electrical work but always found his favorite to be the trouble shooting of electrical ag equipment, most specifically the electric drive sprinkler. During this time Sparky shared his knowledge with others and taught night school electrical classes, set to coincide with an on the job apprenticeship, at the San Luis Valley Area Vocational School.

Over the next several years Sparky built up his business and raised his family just outside of Center. He sold the business in 1984 and went to work for the Monte Vista Public Schools, running their grounds and maintenance departments. Shortly after going to work for them they decided to contract out those departments to Service Master.  Bill then went to work for them and in 1986 moved to Fulton Missouri. There he met his second Wife Donna Thiel. As before Bill missed Colorado and the Valley and returned home. He and Donna moved to Alamosa, where Bill started his own electrical business again. Around 1990 opportunity found Sparky again. He went to work for Reinke Irrigation in Deshler Nebraska and he and Donna moved Hebron Nebraska. He worked for Reinke for several years as the “wizard” of the center pivot. This job allowed him many opportunities including the chance to travel overseas to several countries teaching others to build and repair center pivots. A main part of Sparky’s job was running the training school where they taught servicemen from all over the world to come and learn. His increasing chronic health problems combined with a workplace injury led to an early retirement and a return to the San Luis Valley.

Bill and Donna returned to Alamosa. Bill kept himself busy with many projects and started a small part time business of Sparky’s Repair Shop. He also drove a school bus part time and enjoyed driving potato truck during harvest for several local farms.

Sparky enjoyed many hobbies, including “junking”, and collecting antiques. He loved riding motorcycles.  He could be found much of the time “tinkering” in his shop. He never lost his love of taking pictures and always had a camera close at hand. He enjoyed hunting and being in the mountains and going for long drives, seeing out of the way places. In later years he devolved a love for old western movies. Most of all Bill enjoyed spending time with his family.

Bill also had a passion for helping people. This led him to the saving of many lives and to an incident he was well known for. Bill was severely injured by a rhinoceros at the Phoenix Zoo in 1977 while rescuing a young man from the rhino pen. His love for helping others led him to becoming a volunteer firefighter and an EMT on an ambulance. Bill had a combined career of over 20 years, Serving with the Center Fire Protection District, Alamosa Fire Department and Hebron Rural Fire Departments. Bill also was a member of the Masons most of his adult life, having joined most lodges in the area’s he lived over the years. He also served on the Masonic Park board for many years.

Bill was preceded in death by his Father, Earl and Mother, Jackie and oldest brother Richard. He is survived by Brother, John (Shirly) Gilmore of Golden; Sister: Sharron (Charles) David of Falcon; Son John (Terri Tristano) of Pueblo. Grandchildren Justin, Jessica and Jacie. And one great granddaughter Kallie, all of the Mosca area.

William Bill Sparky Gilmore will be greatly missed. He will be remembered for his heart of gold and his passion for rescuing others but most of all for his love as a father.

Services will be held for Bill at the Rio Alto Cemetery, Crestone Colorado at 11 am Saturday the 13th.  Please join us in celebrating Sparky’s life.  A buffet style lunch will follow, please bring a covered dish if able.

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