David Tyrone Gilmore, pastor of New Mount Zion Baptist Church in Harlem Park, was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 27 and was moved from his home in Nottingham to Franklin Square Medical Center in Rosedale, where he died on April 7.
He was 59.
“This is what makes a COVID death so insidious — a COVID death just adds another layer of loss because I couldn’t be there with him,” said his wife of 37 years, the former Lea A. Bradley, minister for racial justice and multicultural engagement and first service music director at Govans Presbyterian Church.
“They called me at 2 a.m. on April 7, and all I could do was look at him from behind the glass in the ICU. I hope he could feel my soul,” Ms. Gilmore said. “Even though I could see him, it was phenomenally heartbreaking. He was prone on his stomach and a nurse put her iPhone so I could see his face and talk to him. I told him it was ‘OK to go.’ ”
Normally visitors are only allowed to stay for 15 minutes in the ICU, but they let Ms. Gilmore stay an hour and a half.
“I went home and a couple of hours later he was gone,” she recalled. “The hospital called at 5 a.m., and my son, Jonathan, picked up the phone, and they told him that he had passed away,” she said.
It was a love affair that began when they were teenagers. She grew up in Northwood and went to Mercy High School, and he was raised in the Parkview neighborhood in West Baltimore and attended Northwestern High School, from which he graduated in 1979.
“We grew up in the same church, Mount Hope Baptist Church, and to Tyrone I was nothing more than a little brat until puberty took over and a different Lea emerged,” Ms. Gilmore said. “By then he was my boyfriend and he took me to my junior and senior proms.”
Ms. Gilmore started college at Lincoln University, “but I missed my boyfriend and came back home,” she said. The couple were 18 when they married on Christmas Eve 1983.
“He was so adamant abut me getting an education, so, I went to Morgan State University and was in college my first year when I got pregnant. Tyrone was so supportive and just an incredible man and such the representation of a good man,” she said. “So, I went to college, had a child to raise, and taught music three hours every afternoon.”
David Tyrone Gilmore, the son of William Gilmore Sr., a Baltimore City Detention Center correctional officer, and his then-wife, Maxine Adams, a computer technician, was born in Baltimore and raised in the city’s Parkview neighborhood. He graduated in 1999 from the Community College of Baltimore.
In 1990, be followed his father’s footsteps and became a correctional officer at the detention center, where he worked for 26 years until retiring in 2016.
“He retired as a lieutenant from the corrections department, and had a reputation of treating the incarcerated with dignity and respect. He treated them like human beings,” said Baltimore radio personality Marc Steiner, a longtime friend.
Mr. Gilmore’s religious journey began early in his life at Mount Hope Baptist Church, where he presented his initial sermon in 1993.
“Known as a preacher’s preacher, Ty carried the word of God all over the world, including Belgium, Kenya and Guyana with Right Way Ministries International Inc., where he served on the board of trustees for several years,” Ms. Gilmore wrote in a biographical profile.
In 2016, Mr. Gilmore was installed as pastor of New Mount Zion Baptist Church, where he served until his death.
“He was always upbeat and I never saw him down,” said Jesse Peterson, a deacon at the church. “He was also very good at engaging both the young and the old. He could relate to young people and was very inspirational. He was also very much involved in our vacation Bible school, community outreach programs and our food program that was backed by the Maryland Food Bank.”
“Ty Gilmore was a very special man. He was a gentle giant, the rock of his family who loved them more than life itself and was one of the most deeply spiritual men I have ever known,” Mr. Steiner wrote in an email.
“He was a rarity among Southern Baptist preachers standing up for LBGTQ rights and was a radical social activist,” Mr. Steiner wrote.
“He also was a huge supporter of women’s rights,” said Alison Valez Lane, a Baltimore lawyer and a friend of Mr. Gilmore’s since elementary school days.
“It was his smile, and he had the most engaging smile,” Ms. Lane said. “And with Lea, the two of them together, they were both so uplifting. He has a tremendous love for his family, Lea, and the people of Baltimore. He had a big heart and a big vision.”
Mr. Gilmore was an accomplished singer who loved the music of Al Jarreau and James Cleveland.
“He would set souls on fire as he sang ‘My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord.’ He found refuge in the old hymns and would begin his prayers with the compelling lyrics to “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” his wife wrote. “He was a man of deep faith, not only talking the talk, but boldly walking the walk, making sure that everyone knew that it’s about a love thing, and God’s love for all.”
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Mr. Gilmore was studying at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and at the time of his death was preparing to complete his degree in theological studies in the fall of this year.
Mr. Gilmore’s funeral was held Tuesday at Mount Hope Baptist Church.
“I’ve never been to a funeral like that. There were people from all backgrounds, nationalities and gender preferences. It was a tremendous outpouring of support, and we’re going to go on,” Ms. Lane said.
“After the day of Tyrone’s funeral, I went home and found a letter saying I had been accepted to Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, and he would have been so excited,” Ms. Gilmore said. “It was almost too much to process, but it’s this kind of spirituality that keeps us going.”
In addition to his wife, Mr. Gilmore is survived by two sons, Jonathan David Gilmore and Gabriel-Michael Bradley Gilmore, both of Nottingham; his father, William Gilmore Sr. of Pikesville; his mother, Maxine Adams of Baltimore; his stepmother, Valjean Gilmore of Pikesville; six brothers, William Gilmore, Kenneth Gilmore, Charles Gilmore and James Gilmore, all of Baltimore, David Gilmore and John Gilmore, both of Virginia; three sisters, Karen Gilmore and Katrina Bryant, both of Baltimore, and Deborah Gilmore of Atlanta; and many nieces and nephews.