'Strength and Joy': Longtime alderman Gibson leaves legacy of good will
By Scott Loftis
“He was a source of strength and joy to all the lives he touched. Berryville has lost a true ambassador.”
That passage, in the official obituary for Joel Lloyd Gibson, perfectly sums up a lifetime devoted to his family and to the community he loved.
Gibson died peacefully on Wednesday, Nov. 7, less than two months after celebrating his 100th birthday.
Gibson was born in Liberty on Sept. 13, 1919. He attended a one-room school, Liberty School in Dry Fork, through second grade. Then his parents, Homer B. Gibson and Gretchen (Bunch) Gibson, moved him and his five siblings to Berryville so they could get a better education, his obituary says. He graduated from Berryville High School in 1937 and later joined the Air Force along with a brother. He trained in St. Louis, Virginia and Bangor, Maine. He was stateside during the war helping open new bases along the East Coast. It was in Bangor where he met his future wife, Mildred Gray Gibson. They were married for 70 years until her death in 2010. They had three children, Gail, Carol Sue and Joel.
Gibson served his church as a deacon for more than 50 years. He received the Ambassador of the Year Award from the Berryville Chamber of Commerce.
“He was an avid gardener, loved people, a good joke, a good story, and he cherished time spent with his family and friends,” Gibson’s obituary says. “He was a very generous man, always getting great pleasure in sharing anything he had with others. He would tell you that his greatest accomplishment was his family.”
Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney said Gibson’s passing was a great loss for the city.
“I’ve known him all my life,” McKinney said. “I grew up right across the street from him. He was just always a good man.”
McKinney appointed Gibson to fill a vacancy on the Berryville City Council on Aug. 4, 1992. Gibson served for more than 26 years before his final term ended on Jan. 1, 2019. He was 99 years old when he left the council.
Further testament to how well Gibson was regarded in the community: He never faced a challenger for his seat on the council.
“I remember one year we had some citizens upset with us over an annexation issue,” McKinney said in an interview in August 2018. “They went out and found an opponent for everybody on the city council and myself, except Gibson. They couldn’t find anyone who wanted to run against him, even to put their name on the ballot.”Interviewed for that same story, published shortly before his 99th birthday, Gibson said he was leaving the council for health reasons. He used a wheelchair in his final years, and McKinney could always be seen pushing Gibson up the wheelchair ramp outside City Hall before council meetings.
“If someone had trouble out here some place and the city needed to do something about it, I used to go look at it and see what I could help with,” Gibson said at the time. “I’ve gotten to the point with my legs where I can’t go.
“From my hips up, I’m in good shape. From my hips down, I’m gone.”
He said that last part with a smile. Of course.
A celebration of Gibson’s life was held Monday afternoon at Southern Heights Baptist Church.