Hollis Fulmor, born to sing, chose to serve

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Hollis Fulmor, singer, educator and current administrative assistant at Idyllwild’s Spirit Mountain Retreat, also is the granddaughter of A.C. Fulmor, county road builder responsible for highways 74 and 243. Lake Fulmor was named for him in recognition of his services to the county. Photo by Marshall Smith

Many have heard Idyllwild resident Hollis Fulmor sing — in local churches, theater companies and musical-comedy vignettes. She has one of those extraordinarily rich voices, defined by many shades and colors. Her deeply felt interpretative approach to singing has long moved local audiences.

But, even having been professionally schooled in opera and musical theater, Hollis chose a career of service; one of teaching and training other teachers, with a focus on early childhood development.

Trained in voice from age 13, Hollis said she was not driven to succeed at the expense of others. She remembered being aware at an early age that coming in first seemed to mean more to other students, and to their parents, than it did to her.

Hollis also swam competitively during junior and senior high school, but although she had the ability, compassion for others on her team often kept her from pushing her limits in swimming competitions. “I swam for 10 years,” she remembered. “I was OK, but sometimes I did not try so hard because it meant so much more to the other girls. Their parents pushed so much. I had this feeling of compassion for them.”

After high school, Hollis attended the University of the Pacific in Stockton. While in the Stockton area, she had starring roles in musical comedy productions, including Elisa Doolittle in “My Fair Lady.” But even though she had an exceptional singing voice, she said she was not comfortable in the spotlight.

Richard Rodgers once said that many singers have beautiful voices but few can read a lyric in a way that the composer and lyricist intended. Hollis had the ability to beautifully pair the words and the music.

Nevertheless, she chose not to pursue a performing career. “I think for me, I had an inner conflict about being the center of attention,” she remembered. “There was always a certain awkwardness about that. I think in my core I believed I came here to be of service.” She graduated from University of the Pacific with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in music. She obtained a teaching certificate in Early Childhood and Standard K-8.

She taught, including on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. She also served as director of early childhood services at the Jewish Community Center in San Rafael and as training coordinator for the California Association for the Education of Young Children in Sacramento. She later moved into nonprofit sector work, always with service at the core of her professional career and personal process.

She currently is administrative assistant at Spirit Mountain Retreat in Idyllwild. “I have always loved the idea of facilitating people coming together in dialogue,” said Fulmor. “Spirit Mountain has been a real joy to part of something that serves others.”

If the name “Fulmor” seems familiar to travelers on Highway 243, that is because Lake Fulmor is named after Hollis’ grandfather, Alexander Choate Fulmor, also known throughout Riverside County in the mid-20th century as “the road builder.”

A.C. Fulmor, as he was known, supervised the building of both Highway 74, the Palms to Pines Highway, as well as transforming and repositioning the dirt road that had been Highway 243. He also surveyed and was supervisor for construction of the Ortega Highway.

According to Hollis, while surveying prior to construction of Highway 74, A.C. hired two American Indian trackers to help determine the highway’s eventual route. The trackers showed A.C. the trail the Indians took to the desert. “He [A.C.] wanted to follow the land’s natural contours and avoid blasting as much as possible, in respect for both the land and the Indians,” remembered Hollis.

As part of building Highway 243 in the late 1940s, A.C. championed creating a lake in a small canyon adjoining the highway as a recreational area for visitors and residents. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved the lake project and then named it after A.C. in recognition of his services.

Early Idyllwild developer Claudius Emerson also hired A.C. and his partner to survey the area around what is now Tollgate Road for the housing development Emerson planned to build.

Hollis grew up in “old” Riverside, not far from her grandfather’s house. Her father Alfred was a distinguished general-practitioner medical doctor in the community. Hollis remembered growing up in Riverside as an idyllic experience. “The Mission Inn was the center of so much of community life said Hollis — with Sunday organ concerts. My parents also had their courtship there,” she recalled. “The Mission Inn Christmas lights were a family tradition for us. There was such a sense of awe.”

And, just as growing up in Riverside felt secure, living in Idyllwild, where her grandfather built a cabin on land that was a gift from Emerson, continues that feeling of family and interconnectedness.

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