Life Story / Obituary
Robert James Gibbs passed away, October 23, 2019 at age 101.
Bob was grandson to James and Addie, son of Harold and Leah, brother to John, husband to Mary, son-in-law to Harvey and Mary, father to Edith, Jim and Stuart, grandfather to Caitlin and Kevin and uncle and brother-in-law to the Gibbs, Colburns, Kimmels and Saulters.
Bob passed away quietly in Traverse City, Michigan in the house of his childhood, under the exceptional care of his daughter Edith and Hospices of Michigan. He was a life-long residence of East Lansing, Michigan but spent much of his time in Northern Michigan.
His long and active life was filled with doing for others. He valued enterprise, ingenuity, dedication and hard work. He was creative, eccentric, tenacious, engaging and tireless.
He honored his memories of Mayfield, Michigan, the village of his birth. The people, places and events of that time stayed with him until his death. He will be buried in the village cemetery down the road from the house site where he and his father were both born.
His family moved to East Lansing at the beginning of the depression for better opportunities. Bob graduated from East Lansing High School and Michigan State University with a degree in Forestry. He was a proud alumnus and supported the University for years.
As a soldier with the Fifth Division, he landed on Omaha beach, fought under Patton and in the Battle of the Bulge. He returned home with out physical injury after the last battle for the Liberation of Paris.
Like his father before him, he worked for and retired from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. His 25-year career in the Parks Division coincided with the States expansion of the state park system, many of which he helped design and build.
His singing career began as a small child around the parlor piano played buy his mother and ended with a solo performance to his guests at his 100th birthday party last year. He sang in choirs and Glee clubs through out his life and he and Mary raised there children in music maintaining season tickets to the performing arts centers on the MSU campus well into his 80’s. He often said there was a song in his head and heart every waking minute.
As a cyclist, he commuted to work every day, year around. For over 75 years he logged thousands of long distance miles on his bicycle, including the Tour de France route in his late 70’s. He enjoyed many consecutive years riding the Dick Allen Lansing to Mackinaw tour (DALMAC) and pioneered the popular West Route. The Peddle across Lower Michigan tour (PALM) was another favorite for many years. Around town he and Mary were often seen on their tandem bicycle with the family dog on the back. He was the first recipient of the annually presented, Bob Gibbs Passion for Cycling award given by the League of Michigan Bicyclists.
As a carpenter and builder he, created a home for his young family in East Lansing, a retirement home for his parents in Traverse City, and for his wife, a beloved summer house on the shores of Arbutus Lake.
As a man of faith, he and Mary were dedicated life member of Edgewood United Church in East Lansing where he sang in the choir for over 30 years and helped to maintain its buildings. His friendships there lasted for his lifetime.
As a passionate mechanic and automobile restorer, he kept a fleet of Volkswagen’s and Subaru’s and an old IH Travelall on the road for 40 years and fixed anything and everything with a motor.
Driving that Travelall, he chauffeured his family on camping trips for 15 years, seeing every state in the lower 48 and most provinces of Canada, visiting the national parks and many places well off the beaten path. He helped to create memories for the family that are still enjoyed today.
As a woodsman, he loved to maintain wood lots, thinning, cutting, splitting and stacking fire wood to heat four homes, well into his 90’s. He loved the smell of chainsaw sawdust.
As a Maple Syrup producer, he followed in his grandfather’s and father’s foot steps, tapping the same trees in the village of his birth. He was a life member of the Michigan maple syrup Association (MMSA) and was convinced his syrup was the best, it is still being made today.
Through his long life, he gathered around himself an enormous community of friends, family and admirers that appreciated and loved him. He will be missed by all,
Memorial services will be held at the Mayfield Chapel at 2300 Church Street, Kingsley, Michigan 49649 on November 2nd 2019 at noon. Please visit Bob’s page at lifestorytc.com to leave remembrances and photos. Life Story Funeral Home, Traverse City.