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Former state lawmaker Thomas Gilmartin dies

By David Skolnick

Friday, January 20, 2012

By David Skolnick


Thomas P. Gilmartin, a 26-year member of the Ohio General Assembly, described by former colleagues as a “tenacious worker” and “unique,” has died.

Gilmartin, 87, died Wednesday afternoon at Omni Manor Care Center in Austintown.

Gilmartin, born and reared in Youngstown, suffered a stroke in April 2011 that had him “in and out of medical units since then. His quality of life went from a near 10 to a zero,” said Brendan Gilmartin, a son.

Gilmartin “got talked into running” for the Youngstown school board in 1953 and 1955, losing both races, his son said.

But Gilmartin, a Democrat, enjoyed success in 1956, winning a seat in the Ohio House.

He served four two-year terms before being elected in 1964 to the Ohio Senate.

Legislative reapportionment in 1966 eliminated the last two years of his four-year Senate term, so he successfully ran in 1966 for the Ohio House.

Gilmartin had his eye on higher office but never achieved it. He lost congressional races in 1968 and 1970.

He returned to the Ohio House in 1972, serving seven more terms.

“I have fond memories of Tom, who was one of the most unique people I met,” said state Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, who spent four years in the House with Gilmartin. “He was a delightful guy. He always had a smile. He advised me as a young father to make sure my kids and wife came first all the time.”

Former state Sen. Harry Meshel, a Democrat from Youngstown, said Gilmartin “was a tenacious worker. He didn’t mind taking a stand even if it went against his party.”

In 1985, Gilmartin announced he was going to run the following year for governor. But after a few months, he changed his mind and sought re-election in 2006 to the Ohio House.

He lost that race to state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th.

“I’m saddened to hear about his passing,” Hagan said. “He put a lot of years of public service into the community. I’m sorry we lost him.”

While in the Legislature, Gilmartin sponsored the homestead-exemption act and was an advocate for increasing educational opportunities for the mentally challenged.

In later years, he was an avid writer — including penning several letters to the editor to The Vindicator — and hosted radio and television programs on poetry.