PETOSKEY -- In school classrooms and in the larger Petoskey community, many recall Zelda Gilman frequently sharing her knowledge and talents with others.
Gilman, a retired educator, died Sunday at Petoskey's Hiland Cottage hospice residence. She was 101.
Gilman's career in education spanned more than four decades. She spent the latter part of it with the Public Schools of Petoskey -- retiring in the early 1970s -- and also taught in Sebewaing and Midland.
"I think that her students thought the world of her," said Petoskey resident Janice Smith, whose teaching career with the Petoskey district covered some of the same years as Gilman's. "She was kind of a grandmother figure to them and loved them and really brought out the best in all of her kids."
In Petoskey, Gilman taught third grade at Sheridan Elementary School, and also served a stint as principal there. Long after her retirement, Gilman spent a few years volunteering at the school, often reading to students and speaking to them about Michigan history.
"She really loved us, I think," current Sheridan principal Joel Donaldson said. "She loved her time in Petoskey and teaching kids here.
"The kids loved her. They looked forward to her coming."
When Gilman celebrated her 100th birthday in 2011, Donaldson said Sheridan students helped create a quilt for her displaying education-themed images.
A Cheboygan County native, Gilman attended Cheboygan County Normal school for a year while preparing for her teaching career, and then transferred to Central State Teachers College (now Central Michigan University), where she earned a life teaching certificate. She would also obtain bachelor's and master's degrees at Central Michigan.
She married Arthur Davis in 1936, and he preceded her in death in 1937. Her marriage to J. Howard Gilman was in 1949, and he preceded her in death in 1990.
Outside of the classroom, Gilman sometimes occupied herself with local history projects.
Janice Smith -- a founder of Stafford's Hospitality with her husband, Stafford -- was involved in Little Traverse Historical Society leadership years ago, when Gilman contributed some material for the organization's "Historical Glimpses: Petoskey" book project. Smith said Gilman approached this type of subject matter with passion.
"She did work for the historical society in several capacities doing research and writing," Smith said.
Stafford's -- for which Smith serves as a company historian -- enlisted Gilman to help create a display detailing historic hotels in Petoskey. Having once been displayed at the Little Traverse History Museum, it can now be seen at Stafford's Gallery of Art & History in Petoskey.
Smith also spent some time in years past volunteering for the Little Traverse Conservancy, helping with office tasks such as major mailings.
Although Gilman had achieved some authority-figure status as a school administrator, conservancy executive director Tom Bailey said she approached volunteer work as someone eager to serve, and showed enthusiasm for the conservancy's land-preservation efforts and efforts to educate the community about them.
"I remember her as a very bright and positive person who genuinely enjoyed volunteering," Bailey noted.
Petoskey resident Connie Fettig, a niece of Gilman, spent many holidays with her aunt through the years and recently served as her caregiver. Fettig remembers Gilman as a giving person -- not just with material items, but also knowledge.
Gilman enjoyed golf -- playing at the Petoskey-Bay View Country Club until she was in her late 80s -- and following local school sports, Fettig said. She also liked quilting and hand-stitching, and crafted numerous lap robes provided anonymously to local nursing-home residents.
Fettig also recalls taking scenic car rides in Northern Michigan with her aunt, and recalls a saying Gilman had about the area: "This is an endless trail of wonderment."
"She enjoyed life and the north country," Fettig said. "She made the best of every minute."
Gilman is survived by a stepdaughter; Gail Gilman-Frowine and her family, as well as nieces and nephews.
A graveside service for Gilman will take place in the spring at Petoskey's Greenwood Cemetery.
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Long-time educator Gilman remembered as generous with knowledge, effort
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