Carver Embraces the Cross

‘The crucifix is the symbol of the central mystery of God’s love and salvation for us.’


Twenty five years ago, 90-year-old Dick Gilmore of Kennewick, Wash., retired from aeronautical engineering and devoted himself to a new mission in life: making crucifixes.

He has made thousands since — many he has given away; others he has sold to cover the cost of materials — which can be found in homes, Catholic parishes and schools. As he explained, “It has been a mission of mine. I do it because I think it is what Jesus wants me to do.”


Carpentry and Family

Gilmore was born and raised in Otis, a small town in northeastern Colorado. He met his future wife, Dolores, at a lodge in Grand Lake, Colo. The couple married two months later. His Presbyterian family opposed the marriage because of Dolores’ Catholicism. 

Gilmore recalled, “My mother wouldn’t accept it, and my sister took me aside and warned me not to marry a Catholic. But I knew Dolores was what I wanted. My family eventually came around.”

Their union produced eight children. Gilmore taught carpentry to his sons; the most proficient was Mark, who became “a handy carpenter.” Mark went on to become Father Vincent Gilmore of the Norbertine Fathers in southern California. “There was always a project or repairs going on at the house,” Father Gilmore recalled. “Dad was able to fix most anything, and my twin brother and I were always there to watch, help, participate or fetch tools.”

As an adult, the priest’s carpentry skills led to his hobby: the construction of Nativity scenes. Among his most memorable is the Nativity scene at his home abbey, St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, Calif. He reflected, “Like my dad, who makes crucifixes as an expression of his faith, for me, to make Nativity scenes is an expression of my faith, especially in the Incarnation.”


‘Appealing and Beautiful’

Dick Gilmore makes his crosses from a variety of woods. As Father Gilmore observed, “My dad likes the beauty of the wood to show in his work. He is very creative in the styles and kinds of wood and wood inlay he uses for the crosses. He wants to make the crosses appealing and beautiful.”

The elder Gilmore buys some corpuses; others he makes. If he buys a corpus, he can create a mold for it and make plaster copies.

But in the end, he wants to make something that helps the owner realize the great sacrifice Christ made for all of us on the cross. As his priest-son explained, “My dad has a desire to share Jesus with others in the beautiful symbol that the crucifix is to our faith. The crucifix is the symbol of the central mystery of God’s love and salvation for us.”

The elder Gilmore converted to Catholicism the same year his future priest-son made his first Communion. It was no surprise to his son, who had always witnessed his father’s presence at Mass: “I thought he was Catholic because he always went to church with the family.”

Father Gilmore believes his parents’ pro-life activism influenced him to become a religious. He added, “My dad has become a very dedicated and committed Catholic. He goes to Mass daily (when he can) and will talk about his faith to anyone. He designed and built a beautiful grotto on his parish grounds dedicated to the pro-life cause and in remembrance of my mom, who worked so hard in the pro-life movement.”

Dick’s crosses will be the highlight of his woodworking creations, believes his son: “I think people like the idea of having one made by someone who loves the faith.”

Jim Graves writes from

Newport Beach, California.