In small towns everywhere, there is a person who somehow manages to cross over all the little social structural barriers that are quite invisible, yet solidly built, just the same.
It is this smiling soul who is welcomed throughout his life, with a smile and a wave, and will be missed by many.
I was blessed to have worked with just such a fellow on the farm that raised me. I recently attended services to celebrate his life, and the turn-out of people who loved and admired him would have left him speechless.
Bob Gibbs or “Gibsy” always worked a full-time factory job but helped area farmers “just for fun” at the end of sometimes grueling double shifts. For a long time, we were the lucky ones, and Dad welcomed his help.
An incredibly hard worker, Gibsy would accomplish jobs that he could see needed doing, and sometimes not think much of it. I remember once, listening as Dad described this one particular calf hutch (and calves) moving/clean-up job we all had to pitch in and help with, in great detail, ending with (as always).
“Ok. Everybody follow me?” (Translation: do you each know what you need to do?) While we each nodded and got ready to tackle the project, Gibbs was quiet.
Dad asked if he had any questions, at which time Gibsy said, “Well, Stan, you’d mentioned it yesterday, so I already did all that last night before I left.”
More than once, I saw my dad shake his head in amazement in similar situations. During extra demanding times at the factory, Gibbs might not be able to make it to the farm for several days or weeks.
When that happened, he was sorely missed. When sharing milking duties with Gibbs, there was no doubt things would flow along smoothly.
He paid attention, he was calm with the cows and thorough with each necessary chore, and never complained even when any mortal man would have.
If it was hot, he would say, “Hey, it’s not as hot as it was in the factory today!” and it put a new perspective on the day for all of us. He and his wife, Karen, had four daughters, all just a bit younger than me, and I loved hearing him talk about what good girls they were.
We could catch up while the milking was accomplished, and still find more to talk about when the day’s work was done. Gibsy worked on the farms because he found joy in it, and his smile carried proof of that.
He jumped in with both feet to all the sometimes mundane parts of a farm day — scraping alleys, throwing down hay, putting down fresh bedding for cows and calves, and then would turn to Dad and say, “What else, boss?”
Not long ago, I had the chance to talk to Gibsy. He told me he had had a lot of jobs over his lifetime, and a whole lot of different bosses.
“Your dad, I have to say, was the best man I ever worked for.”
As I stood in line to pay my respects, I recalled the night when Gibsy came through this same funeral home as we said good-bye to my father. It was the first time I had ever seen the jovial man without his signature smile.
Tears flowed as he told each one of us how much he would miss our dear dad, and there was no doubt his emotion was sincere.
Gibsy, his smile that could light up the gloomiest day, and his vibrant love for life, will be missed. But in looking with the perspective that this fellow helped to convey, instead of feeling sorrow, I find myself thinking instead, what a joy to have known him!