It’s a long way from Madonna’s Lincoln Campus to Monterey Park, Calif., a hillside suburban city east of downtown Los Angeles. But that doesn’t stop Willie Gilmore from remembering the special people who cared for her mother for 13 years.
At 82 years young, the Monterey Park resident has been sending a gift to Madonna every year since 1984 as a tribute to Madonna’s care of her mother, making her the Foundation’s longest continuous donor.
“While my brothers and sisters did a great job taking care of my mother, Margaret Schommer, we were so lucky to have a place like Madonna when the time came for her to leave her home. It was a safe place for her to be and it was especially important to her to have the chapel onsite,” Willie recalls.
Willie made it back to Nebraska about once a year to see her mom after AT&T transferred her from Omaha to the Los Angeles area in 1960. She met her husband, Francis, through a bowling league and the couple settled in Monterey Park. Over the next decades, Willie worked for the development firm that she and her husband started, and later, for a practice group of emergency room physicians.
For 25 years, Willie also volunteered with the American Association of Retired Persons to fill out tax forms for senior citizens. The volunteers were trained each January on new tax laws and had to pass a test to serve. “I look at the new forms today and there are so many changes,” said Willie who just retired from her volunteer post in 2012.
A self-described dog lover, Willie enjoys spending time with her 2-year-old beagle, Cassie. “Dogs are such great company, especially at night. Plus we walk a mile and a half to three miles a day and rarely miss due to weather,” she adds.
The last time Willie visited Madonna was in 2012. “I couldn’t believe how much everything has changed from when my mother was at Madonna. I was very impressed and amazed by what I saw. Madonna is such a hopeful place.”