Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Gentleman Dean of McHenry County Democrats Has Walked his Last Precinct

Bob Gibson accepting his Community Service Award, 2006


From the day late and a dollar short department.  Due to the logistics of sharing the Northwest Herald with my wife, I generally end up reading the paper when it is a day old on my bus ride into Woodstock.  So it wasn’t until yesterday morning that I opened the paper and got the sad news that Bob Gibson had passed away on March 6.
Bob was a mere 93 years old.  When I last ran into him a few months ago he was still trim and dapper with a ready smile. 
He was one of the first men I met when I joined the McHenry County Democratic Party in 1988 and until he died the only one from those days still active in the Party.  He was the senior Committeeman back then.  I lasted long enough to be second senior.  But Bob beat me by 30 years.  He was first elected as committeeman for Dorr Township Precinct 3 in 1958.
He faithfully walked that precinct in every primary and general election almost to the end.  He knew everyone in every house by name—and the names of their children and grandchildren.  All about their lives, fears and worries.  He knew who was a hopeless Republican, who was a yellow dog Democrat, and who would take his advice and vote for the candidates he supported just because they knew and trusted him.  And he treated every one of them with courtesy and respect.
Bob showed me the ropes around the Party when I was green and looked at with some suspicion as a wild eyed radical from Chicago.  He sat in the front row of every party meeting and convention and could be counted upon to make the motions that got the business moving smoothly.  When I was suddenly thrust into the Party Chairmanship after the death of Bob McGarry, I relied on him for sage advice and support in my months of interim leadership.
It was no wonder that when the Robert McGarry Award for Community Leadership was created by the Party for presentation at the very first Thomas Jefferson Dinner in 2006, Bob Gibson was the only candidate even considered.  That’s because his service was not just limited to his party, but to the labor movement, his fellow veterans, and every good civic cause in his beloved Woodstock.
Robert Eugene Gibson was born in Kansas in 1919 and moved to Illinois with his family as a youngster.  He served in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II and during the Korean War.
In between those tours he married Dorothy M. Kopsell in 1947 and established a home in Woodstock.  Together they lost one infant son, raised three children and lived to see two more generations.  Dorothy, the three children, and decedents survive him.
Upon final return from the service, Bob went to work for Dean Foods at their Huntley milk plant.  It was there that he joined the Teamsters.  He was a dedicated union man, rising steadily from shop steward, to a member of the local executive board, then to 13 years as a business agent and President of Local 754. No union officer ever looked after the best interests of his members with greater care and dedication than did Bob Gibson.
Bob also dedicated himself to Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5040 in Woodstock which he served in almost every available capacity.  He was a longtime member of the Honor Guard and many Woodstock residents will remember him in his smart white uniform at Memorial Day and Veterans Day observances as well innumerable parades and the last salutes to many comrades.
When Melissa Bean made her re-election run in 2010 she wisely chose Bob, the essence of Greatest Generation and small town values to speak for her in a television spot filmed on Woodstock Square.
Bob probably knew more folks in Woodstock than anyone else with the possible exception of old time newspaper man and reporter Don Peasley, who snapped more than one shot of Bob doing good in his hometown over the years.
I expect a big turnout for his wake and funeral.
A visitation will be held on Friday, March 15 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Schneider-Leucht-Merwin & Cooney Funeral Home, 1211 N. Seminary Avenue in Woodstock and will continue on Saturday, March 16 from 10 a.m. until the time of the funeral service at 11 a.m. Burial will be at McHenry County Memorial Park Cemetery in Woodstock, with military honors provided by the Woodstock VFW Post 5040 Honors Squad.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to Helping Paws Animal Shelter, 2500 Harding Lane, Woodstock, Illinois 60098.
I’m not too sure about arrangements in the hereafter, but if there are celestial streets, you can make sure that Bob will soon be making the round of the cloud banks helping the angels make their voices heard and keeping the Boss honest.   

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