Mainer, artist, sailor and skier Barbara Drummond Gilman, 96, died peacefully Dec. 14 in Scarborough after a life that included spending a year bed-bound with tuberculosis as a child, being rescued from double pneumonia by pre-market penicillin during a post-college tour of Italy, and winning an art contest judged by Norman Rockwell.

She grew up in Portland, where she attended Waynflete School and Lincoln Junior High School and graduated from Deering High School in 1935. It was her deepest desire, according to her daughter Grace Drummond of South Portland, to go to the Art Students League in New York (later the Parsons School of Design). Her parents did not approve.

“In that era it wasn’t considered quite right, truthfully, for a girl to go off to art school in New York City,” Drummond said Saturday. Her parents pushed for Vassar; they compromised on Pine Manor College in Brookline, Mass. She graduated in 1937.

After graduation, Mrs. Gilman went to Europe to study art while living with an uncle who was an art professor. When she was diagnosed with double pneumonia, her father, Dr. Joseph Drummond, who practiced as general surgeon at the State Street Hospital in Portland, arranged for her to be given penicillin, although it was not yet technically on the market, her daughter said.

Mrs. Gilman returned home via ship to recover in Maine and soon thereafter met her husband, E. Jeffrey Gilman, who had just graduated from Bowdoin College.

Her husband, who went by the name Gil, joined the military and during World War II attained the rank of lieutenant commander, commanding several ships while on active duty in the Pacific Theater. At the end of the war, the couple returned to Maine to live in their home in Danforth Cove in South Portland, where they raised their son and daughter in a house that Gilman named “Sea Song,” reflecting her lifelong love of the ocean and sailing.

When she was just 14, she was given her first boat, a Friendship sloop she called White Cap, which was intended to get her outside and help build up her strength after her battle with TB.

“Lord, did she take to that,” her daughter said. “That was in her blood. To her dying day she could look out a window at the wind and the weather and tell you all sorts of things that would happen.”

A painting Mrs. Gilman made of White Cap still hangs on a wall in the house called Sea Song, where her daughter still lives. She and her husband kept sailboats throughout their marriage.

As a young woman, she entered a competition run by a ski association for a drawing that would embody the idea that skiing was “out of this world.” Her illustration, which showed Gil coming down the slopes at Sugarloaf, where the couple were among the first to build a ski home, won first place. The judge was Norman Rockwell, and the family still has a letter of congratulations he wrote to Mrs. Gilman. She continued to paint throughout her life, only stopping in her early 90s, when her vision began to fade.

According to her daughter, among the accomplishments Mrs. Gilman was particularly proud of was the work she did to restore the building at 103-107 Exchange St. in Portland, where her husband’s company, Dow & Pinkham Insurance, had its offices.

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

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