MANSFIELD — Industrialist, philanthropist and aviator James “Jim” Gorman is leaving a legacy sure to grow after his death.
The Mansfield native flew more than 70 combat missions in World War II. When he returned to Mansfield, he began work at the Gorman-Rupp Company, which his father co-founded with Herbert Rupp.
Gorman had asked his father to buy him something with money he earned in the Army Air Corps. J. C. Gorman bought farmland near I-71 and State Route 97, now set to become a YMCA sports complex in 2025.
Cristen Gilbert, CEO for the YMCA of North Central Ohio, said the YMCA deeply appreciated Gorman’s land donation.
“Jim Gorman, and the entire Gorman family, has done amazing things for our communities,” she said. “We are so grateful for the beautiful land he donated to the YMCA and the entire Richland County area.
“This is a tremendous gift. He was a pillar in the community and will be missed by so many.”
Gorman led the Gorman-Rupp Company as president and served on the board of directors for 73 years before he retired in 2019.
His son Jeff Gorman said, “he may have stepped down in title, but not so much in practice.
“He was still very involved in the business, but made room for others to learn how to lead the business and keep it growing.”
Jeff Gorman, chairman of the board at Gorman-Rupp and former CEO, said some of his father’s proudest business accomplishments included the growth of Gorman-Rupp under his leadership.
“He helped it grow through all his life,” he said.
Jerry Miller, president of the North Central Ohio Industrial Museum, noted Gorman’s death marks the sixth loss of a “Champions of Industry” Hall of Fame member in a year.
“I don’t know what I can say about Jim that hasn’t already been said, but he was always one of those guys that would help you however he could,” Miller said. “Him and his whole family are a huge part of our local history and he lived a great life.”
Gayle Gorman Green said her father struck a balance between being respected and well-liked at Gorman-Rupp.
“He had the vision to run the company to more growth, and I believe he was well-liked by the employees,” she said. “That’s a difficult combo.”
Gorman Green is the former president and CEO of Manarico, Inc. owned by Hughey and Phillips LLC. She briefly worked at the Gorman-Rupp Company, where her son Curtis Freeman now works in the engineering department.
“My father was so happy to have Curtis working there and continuing the family legacy at Gorman-Rupp,” she said. “And of course, he loved all of his five grandchildren and the great-grandchildren.”
Gorman Green said one of her favorite memories with her father was taking him to fly a DC-3 aircraft around 2016.
“He was a C-47 pilot in World War II, and the DC-3 is the civilian aircraft,” she said. “I knew how much that plane meant to him, so when I saw an ad that that plane would be in New Philadelphia, I wanted to take him to fly in it.
“He was about 92 years old then, and told me, ‘Gayle, I have tons of hours in that aircraft, I don’t need a ride.’ But I asked if he would go with his daughter, and he said, ‘Absolutely.’ “
Gorman also regularly participated in the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture Fly-In in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Rick Taylor, owner of Hudson & Essex and former president of Jay Industries, served on the Gorman-Rupp board of directors with Gorman for more than 15 years.
“I’ve always admired Jim Gorman,” Taylor said. “He ran Gorman-Rupp like a family business and cared for all of his employees. He’ll be dearly missed in this community.
“He could have flown anywhere he wanted, but he stayed in Mansfield and chose to make this a better place. He lived a great life, and to paraphrase Frank Sinatra, he did it his way. I’m proud to have known him.”
Brady Groves, president of the Richland County Foundation, said he worked closely with Jim Gorman on many foundation projects.
“We’d send out letters to donors and advisers, and Jim was always the first to respond and always there to help,” Groves said. “He really enjoyed helping the community and we are so honored to be part of his philanthropic legacy.
“Obviously, he and the Gorman family have financially supported our community for a long time, but the leadership Jim Gorman provided was equally as important. Those relationships are the things that folks will miss. He’ll be dearly missed, but his legacy will live on.”
Gorman contributed to many community projects including:
- fundraising with Avery Hand to build The Ohio State University at Mansfield campus.
- the Gorman Nature Center.
- the North End Community Improvement Collaborative urban farm.
- the Clear Fork Valley Bellville dog park.
- Unstoppable Youth Sports.
- the Richland County Foundation, where he served on the board of directors.
- Mansfield Rotary Club, where he was a past president.
- Mansfield Aviation Club, where he served as president.
- co-founding the aviation museum Beechcraft Heritage Museum, where he served on the board of directors.
- co-founding the Staggerwing Club in Idaho Falls.
- The179th Cyberspace Wing of the Air National Guard at Mansfield Lahm Airport.
- the Soldiers and Sailors Museum and Frank P. Lahm Aviation Museum.
- the national Experimental Aircraft Association Foundation, where he served as president and on the board of directors. He also flew more than 240 flights for the EAA Young Eagles program.
“(Jim Gorman) could have flown anywhere he wanted, but he stayed in Mansfield and chose to make this a better place. He lived a great life, and to paraphrase Frank Sinatra, he did it his way. I’m proud to have known him.”— Rick Taylor, Hudson & Essex owner
‘Pillar of our Community’
State Senator Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario) said he couldn’t count the number of community development projects Jim Gorman supported.
“He was always very pleasant to be around, and humble,” he said. “Sometimes, I would be talking to people and they would mention Jim Gorman donated land or money to a project and I had no idea because he wasn’t in it for the recognition.
“We’ve lost another pillar of our community, and I think it’s safe to say the whole county is grieving. He put Mansfield on the map in many ways and led Gorman-Rupp to tremendous growth as a company.”
State Rep. Marilyn John (R-Richland County), a former county commissioner and mayor of Shelby, said Gorman’s legacy will live on for generations.
“You think about all the kids and families who will be playing sports at the YMCA complex and how their lives will be touched by his contributions,” John said.
“Jim Gorman’s affect on Ohio will still be felt after I’m gone. He’s absolutely a community icon, but he’s also a father and grandfather, so I know the family’s loss is much greater than ours.”
Gorman received many local and national awards for his business acumen and philanthropy including the Mansfield-Richland Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Award, the Experimental Aviation Association Chairman’s Award and the Beechcraft Heritage Museum Young Eagle Award.
He was also inducted into the North Central State College Hall of Excellence and North Central Ohio Industrial Museum Champions of Industry Hall of Fame.
The Gorman family requests that people wanting to make memorial donations give to the Mansfield Aviation Club scholarship fund at the Richland County Foundation.
Wappner Funeral Directors will host a private burial service and announce a celebration of Gorman’s life at a later date.
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