Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

Rosemary Gilman was one of the most colorful imports to the Northern Neck.   

She came here from New York City, where she had made a name for herself as a preeminent artist and interior decorator. Her work was acclaimed by writers and collectors alike, and she gained considerable attention as the New York editor of Architectural Digest. Her design techniques have been reviewed in many significant publications from The New York Times to House and Garden and The Wall Street Journal.

A native of Brielle, N.J., she graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., after which she continued her studies at the University of Nice in France, the Instituto Norteamericano in Mexico City and The New School in New York. Always, she was a leader in originating new concepts of artistic development.

She thrived on making artistic innovations, and as her work came to be recognized both in this country and abroad, she began receiving commissions from celebrities and collectors such as the actor James Earl Jones, Robert MacNeil of the Newshour, and the philanthropist, Enid Haupt, the sister of publishing giant and former Ambassador to the Court of Saint James, Walter Annenberg.

Rosemary was an important contributor to the popularization of folk art as a mainstream form of artistic expression. When living in New York, she regularly appeared on WNET-TV, the public television station, describing various works of folk art that were donated for fund-raising purposes. She was enthusiastic about bringing folk art into wider recognition among connoisseurs.

In her estimation, art was supposed to have an uplifting influence on those who beheld it. This interest led her to join with other similar artists to establish a Designer’s Task Force of the City of New York, the goal of which was to design aesthetically pleasing and comfortable surroundings for hospital patients. 

She saw art as having a vital role as part of a patient’s road to recovery. The enduring legacy of that kindly interest was the founding of a permanent design department at Bellevue Hospital, the oldest and one of the largest public hospitals in the U.S. For those efforts, Rosemary was made an honorary member of the Better Bellevue Association board of directors. Unlike the popular conception for many, Bellevue is a general facility, and not merely the mental hospital it once was.

With all this extensive background, over two decades ago Rosemary left the hubbub of New York City to settle in White Stone, where her brother and sister-in-law, Fred and Maggie Gilman, operated the White Stone Wine and Cheese Shop on Rappahannock Drive. She became an avid local explorer, visiting art shows, antiques shops and estate sales across the region, entertaining everyone she met with her wit and engaging personality. She remained a dedicated collector in her own right, but also continued to look for pieces for clients from her New York days.

Last August, Rosemary died at the age of 86. Perhaps the best way to describe her personality is to pass into French, using the expression “joie de vivre,” which translates literally as “joy of life.”  Rosemary truly enjoyed her time on this earth, and she conveyed her zest for living in every circumstance. She was by no means a wallflower, but rather a dynamic practitioner of doing good for others and having a ball herself while at it.

Rosemary Gilman, June 26, 1938 – August 28, 2020. R.I.P.

              *****

Last winter I wrote an item on the Brains and Balance class I was taking at Rappahannock Community College in which I described the decidedly impressive exercises of my classmate, Kay Inskeep, who was at the time passing her 99th birthday.

Kay is a poster child for keeping fit, and next Wednesday she will become a centenarian. Happy Birthday, Kay, and thanks for the inspiration you manifest to all the rest of us. In your case one can say that you have never left the peak of youth.  Ad multos annos!