GILDENMEISTER, RICHARD LEE (10 July 1932 – 17 Dec 2020) was born in Bellevue, Ohio, to parents Frances and Corrine Gildenmeister. As a master bookseller, Gildenmeister worked to promote the works of local and national authors throughout northeast Ohio by fostering a strong connection between authors and their readers. 

Richard Gildenmeister graduated from Capital University in 1955 and moved to Cleveland to work for the HIGBEE COMPANY. There he served under renowned bookseller Anne Udin in the Junior Executive Training Program. This apprenticeship was instrumental for Gildenmeister, as he developed a deep love for books which he carried with him throughout his life. It was while working there that Gildenmeister decided to bring authors into Cleveland for book signings – an idea which eventually evolved into the Cleveland Plain Dealer Book and Author Luncheon, as well as Higbee’s Meet the Author luncheon series, both of which Gildenmeister co-founded. He worked at the Higbee Company for eighteen years before leaving to be the manager of a BURROWS BOOKSTORE

Richard Gildenmeister escorting Lauren Bacall to a book signing party.
Cleveland Memory
Richard Gildenmeister escorting Lauren Bacall to a book signing party, 1979.

In 1976, Gildenmeister decided to open his own bookstore at his beloved Shaker Square. Many prominent individuals attended the opening of the bookstore, including Mayor RALPH PERK.. After opening his bookstore, Gildenmeister co-founded the Friends of Shaker Square organization, which promoted the development of Shaker Square. Despite its cherished position within the community, the economic recession of the early 1980s forced Gildenmeister to close the bookstore in 1981. However, Gildenmeister continued to sell books in the Cleveland area, working first at BEACHWOOD’s Pavilion Mall, then at Apple Tree Books in CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, before finally returning to SHAKER SQUARE as Joseph-Beth’s distinguished master bookseller. 

Gildenmeister was an active member of the Cleveland community and worked tirelessly to support various organizations throughout the city. He served as a board member of the Friends of CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY, where he organized used-books sales. Gildenmeister also loaned his personal collection of books to the library on multiple occasions for exhibition. This included over six thousand signed editions by famous authors such as Jacqueline Suzann, Helga Sanberg, Barbra Walters, and Truman Capote – many of whom were personal friends of Gildenmeister. He was a trustee for Youth Challenge, a Fairview-based organization which provides sports, art, and recreational activities and programming for children with physical disabilities. Gildenmeister was also an active member of ST. PAUL’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH in Cleveland Heights, where he frequently volunteered as a lector and an usher. Gildenmeister’s life story can be read in Terry Troy’s 2004 book Cleveland Classics: Great Stories from the North Coast, which highlights Gildenmeister’s role as a pillar of the Cleveland community. In 2008, Gildenmeister’s efforts to better the Cleveland community were formally recognized, as he received the Martha Joseph Prize for Distinguished Service to the Arts. 

Richard Gildenmeister passed away on 17 December 2020 and is buried in York Cemetery. He was eighty-eight. 


Claire Berlin


Article Categories