By Ron Hayes
GULF STEAM — Wilma Ann and George Elmore moved to Delray Beach in the early 1950s and started a small paving business they named Hardrives. George paved driveways for $125 each. Wilma did the books. And kept the house. And raised the children. They were young newlyweds, scraping by, building a business, building a life.
“We started from scratch,” their son Craig recalls, “but Dad always told us that whatever you get out of the community you need to give back to the community.”
Wilma Ann Elmore never betrayed that commitment.
By the time of her death at 81 on Oct. 21, Mrs. Elmore had been a generous supporter — in both money and time — of Lynn University and the Boca Raton Regional Hospital, of the Kravis Center and Florida Atlantic University.
In the early 1970s, Mrs. Elmore was a founder and president of Lynn University’s Excaliber Society, establishing an endowed scholarship that grew to more than $750,000.
“She was a very serious, dedicated woman,” said John Gallo, now the university’s senior major gifts officer. “She was very kind, and when she took over a job to get something done, she did it and did it well.”
Judy Mitchell, CEO of the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, found that out when Mrs. Elmore served on its advisory board and development committee back in the 1980s.
“She was just an excellent advocate for our project,” Mitchell said, “but really for arts and culture in the community in general. She and George continued to be involved even when she was no longer on the board. I remember she once arranged to have that Lynn University group she put together come to the Kravis Center for their scholarship program. She was networking before that became a popular term.”
When the Caldwell Theatre prepared to build its own theater several years ago, George Elmore brought his expertise in the construction industry, and Mrs. Elmore brought her love of theater.
“She was involved with us for probably 15 or 20 years,” remembers Clive Cholerton, the theater’s artistic director. “I know it sounds like a cliché, but the leadership they showed was invaluable. She wasn’t just about writing checks. She rolled up her sleeves and got involved.”
Mrs. Elmore helped design the parsonage at First United Methodist Church of Boca Raton. She served on the board of the Palm Beach County Cultural Council and the founding board of the Old School Square cultural center in Delray Beach. She was a former president of FAU’s Volunteer League and vice president of the FAU Foundation.
Mrs. Elmore was born March 11, 1930, in Santa Monica, Calif. She came to South Florida in the late 1940s, where she met her husband.
During their six decades in Palm Beach County, the Elmores lived in Delray Beach, Boca Raton and, most recently, Gulf Stream, where Mayor Bill Koch was an old friend.
“When they started, that paving business was nothing but a roller and a truck down on Federal Highway on a little lot,” Koch recalled. “He did my driveway, which is still there. But behind every successful man, there’s a woman, and she was there.”
In addition to her husband and son Craig, Mrs. Elmore is survived by a daughter, Debra, of Hypoluxo; three grandchildren, Thomas, of Okeechobee; Amy, of High Springs, and Jesse of Boynton Beach, as well as great grandchildren, Tyler James and Tucker Jackson Elmore of Okeechobee.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to the Old School Square Crest Theater Memorial Fund, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach, FL 33444.