Update: Gilmore got in touch with me today to point out that White is wearing the ring in today’s episode of The Doctors. You can watch a promo of the show here, where you can catch a glimpse of the ring on White’s right hand.
A Roanoke man with ties to Hollywood has teamed up with jeweler Ginger Mumpower to design jewelry for celebrities, most recently a ring and bracelet for Betty White’s 91st birthday.
This story starts nearly 20 years ago, when Roanoke teen Jason Gilmore wrote a fan letter to Betty White. To his surprise, she wrote back. The two kept up correspondence throughout the years, and finally met in person in 2006 while Gilmore was at a festival in Los Angeles. When he returned to Roanoke a note from White was waiting for him.
He met the Golden Girls star again last fall after attending a live taping of “Hot in Cleveland,” a sitcom starring White. That time he took her a necklace from Mumpower. Again, he had a note from White waiting for him when returned to Roanoke.
With White’s 90th birthday approaching, Gilmore talked to Mumpower about designing a ring featuring garnets, White’s birthstone, and an opal, the birthstone of her late husband. Gilmore recently presented White with the ring and a matching bracelet.
White gasped and hugged Gilmore when she saw the jewelry.
White is one of a long list of celebrities that Gilmore and Mumpower have adorned with jewelry. Mickey Rooney received white gold cuff links with hearts on fire, Red Buttons was gifted with a comedy/tragedy ring Mumpower designed, and Dolly Parton was given a ring with a pave butterfly. Mumpower also designed the platinum mounting for Mary McDonough’s engagement ring, and a ring for Loretta Lynn in remembrance of her late husband and son. She also designed jewelry for the cast of The Waltons when they celebrated the show’s 40th anniversary. Other celebrities to receive Mumpower’s jewelry include Jamie Lee Curtis, Eva Longoria, Michele Lee and Clint Eastwood.
Gilmore said his run-ins with celebrities have been mostly chance. He met the cast of The Waltons years ago when they came to Vinton to be the grand marshals of the Dogwood Festival. He befriended McDonough, who played Erin Walton, and later visited her in Los Angeles. He has met other celebrities through friends in the movie industry, such as one friend who is a casting director, Gilmore said.
Mumpower, who recently reopened her Roanoke jewelry store, said it’s been an honor designing jewelry for celebrities, especially those she admires.
“It’s great to have a way to reach people through jewelry,” Mumpower said. “It’s so much more than metal and stones.”