SIU to plant tree in honor of ‘Chef Jim’

James “Chef Jim” Gilmore. (Provided photo)

James “Chef Jim” Gilmore. (Provided photo)

By Daily Egyptian staff

The university on Wednesday said it plans to plant a Japanese lilac tree in honor of James “Chef Jim” Gilmore, the head chef at Lentz Hall who died about a year ago.

The planting will occur at 2:15 p.m. Friday behind the dining facility where he worked. The event is open to the public.

Gilmore, who had been a chef for University Housing since 2008, died at his residence in Murphysboro at 6:25 p.m. April 22, 2016. He was 48.


In a news release, the university called Gilmore a longtime employee who “left his mark on the campus and those who knew him.”

An outdoorsman, Gilmore loved to hike, hunt, fish, boat and kayak. In an interview after his death, Cory Rowley, one of Gilmore’s childhood friends, said Gilmore loved birds, especially bald eagles.

But most of all, his obituary said, “his love was cooking.”

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, he used his culinary skills in New York, Colorado and Georgia, according to the news release. At SIU, the chef initially worked at the Student Center.

In an interview after Gilmore’s death, Jon Shaffer, director of University Housing, said Gilmore had a great personality and loved working with students.

“Whenever, wherever I saw Jim, he was happy and bubbly,” Shaffer said.

Sharon Spence, who worked at Lentz at the time of his death, recalled how Gilmore would cook a special Brazilian cuisine at the dining hall. She said Gilmore would often come up with new meals to serve the students.


Rowley, 36, of Union County, said Gilmore was not married, but had three dogs. He said because of a traumatic brain injury, Gilmore was placed on leave about two years before his death. It is unclear how he died.

“It crushed him to leave a job he loved so much,” Rowley said.

The Daily Egyptian’s news desk can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3397.

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