Legendary former ‘Press’ reporter dies
By Dean Shipley
For years, this reporter sat next to reporter Bernice Gallimore in The Madison Press newsroom. Because she was the senior reporter and knew a lot of people based on her years of experience, she wrote most of the stories involving a person in the county who passed away.
I would hear her making her phone interviews for the story: “Hello, this is Bernice Gallimore with the Press and I’m writing a front-page-death story on…”
Now it’s my turn, to write hers. Bernice Gallimore has died. She was 93.
Several years ago, this reporter was talking to Bernice right around the time of her birthday. I was asking her some questions about her younger days and how she happened to wind up in Madison County.
A couple days later, Linda Marx, our classified section manager said she has spoken with Bernice. She said, “I had the strangest conversation with Dean Shipley the other day.”
“Oh,” Marx said.
Bernice went on, “For a minute there, I thought I was dead.”
It was not Bernice’s mind which forced her to retire in her 80s in the mid-2000s. Macular degeneration robbed her of her sight and her ability to drive to the Press from her home near Plumwood. While she was able she was one of the first reporters to arrive. She always parked in the first spot available in the lot closest to the back door. Other reporters out of respect, would leave it open, if her car was not already parked.
Bernice was a hardworking, reliable reporter. She kept an ear on the police scanner. In the days of film cameras, she could be seen on a traffic site with her double reflex 120 format (large) camera and notebook. Her training was obtained on the job.
In addition to reporting on accidents, fires and the like, Bernice became an excellent feature writer. She worked very hard on the annual publication Variety. She made it her goal every year to have the most bylines in that magazine-like publication. She usually did it.
The Associated Press presented her with its top Lifestyles feature writing award in 2000 for papers of our size of circulation.
“She had no formal training but she had the best instincts for the job I’ve ever seen,” said fellow reporter, Jane Beathard. “She doggedly pursued a story.”
Beathard recalled the day President Bill Clinton came to Madison County. Beathard said all the reporters had been assigned to various sites where Clinton would appear. Bernice was assigned to the Madison County airport, where Marine 1, which was carrying the president, would land. Before she left on the assignment, Beathard gave Bernice some words of encouragement.
“Don’t let those secret service guys push you around,” Beathard said.
She didn’t. As a result, the secret servicemen had their hands full with a feisty reporter who was bound and determined to fulfill her assignment. She was subjected to a pat down by Secret Service agents. So she photographed other spectators, hoping to glimpse Clinton, being patted down.
Former editor and reporter for The Madison Press, Mac Cordell, sent the following remembrance: Bernice was the consummate news person. She fought, always, for the reader and for the community members. She approached each assignment with her own attitude and energy. Bernice enjoyed the thrill of the newsroom and it showed. Bernice refused to let any reporter take the easy way out of an assignment and if you tried, she was sure to call you on it. Additionally, her knowledge of the area and the people in the community helped her and the reader add a deep context to so many stories, that no one else could. Every newsroom in America, every news reader in America, should be blessed with a Bernice Gallimore.
Sheriff Jim Sabin described Bernice as “one hell of a reporter.” He and others got to know Bernice as she responded to calls on the ever-present scanner.
She developed a working rapport with law enforcement, firefighters and paramedics, said Don Hartley, former publisher of The Madison Press.
“They nicknamed her Scoop,” Hartley said.
Hartley called her one of the best employees he ever had. She had been hired by his father, C.C. Hartley to staff the then satellite office of the Plain City Advocate. When that office was closed, she took her spot in the Oak Street office.
“You couldn’t ask for a better person,” Hartley said. “She was a real gift to Madison County in the journalism field.”
At one time she was the oldest working female journalist in the state of Ohio, working well into her 80s.
Former co-worker Betsy Brinksneader worked with Bernice for 13 years. She took over obituaries for Bernice and she concentrated on the Society page. During the week of the county fair, when reporters were stationed on the fairgrounds to photograph first place winners, Brinksneader and Bernice always worked together.
Brinksneader was impressed by Bernice’s ability, after years of working on typewriters, manual and electric, to learn the myriad of computer operating systems, which were constantly evolving and moving through the newsroom.
When Brinksneader wanted a second pair of eyes to look over her copy, she would turn to Bernice, “to make sure it was OK.”
Over the course of their professional association, a friendship grew between the two women. Brinksneader said they often had lunch together, would take each other out on their birthdays, exchange cards and small gifts at Christmastime.
“She could be feisty,” Brinksneader said. “We teased her about chasing fires.”
No matter. She took it in stride and moved on to her next assignment.
She will be laid to rest Jan. 21. See her obituary on page 3.