On June 7, 2017, the line of mourners from the casket at the alter of the historic First Presbyterian Church ran along the right hand aisle and down the steep steps outside in Marion, NC. Hundreds showed up to show their respect for a man who spent his entire life in service to others. His large family mingled with neighbors and those who travelled from far points on the map to celebrate the life of Pete Gibbs.
I tarried in that line and listened to conversations of folks who had known each other for years, as they renewed contacts and shared memories of school events, the Pleasant Gardens neighborhood, Marion history, and especially the Lake Tahoma Steak House and Gibbs Motel, the local trademarks of the family. Pete managed the restaurant until 1979 when it was leased as Little Sienna.
As author of Pete’s biography, The Bear Hunter’s Son, I had spent many hours listening to Pete’s reflections from his life, the happiest hours surrounded by his family and in service to his Lord. In the late 1960s, Pete and his wife, Betty, helped to open Life Mission that helped locally with food and clothing donations. In the 1970s and 80s, he served as a leader in the McDowell County Children’s Ministry, influencing lives in underprivileged neighborhoods. He has made a loving mark on many hearts, never to be forgotten. Two of his caregivers at the end were named in the book as being with him from the beginning of his children’s ministry.
Pete’s family allowed me the courtesy of visiting him in his final hours at his home, where he has lived since 1948, within a mile of his parent’s home and the restaurant. His funeral service was held in the Gibbs home church although Pete had been attending Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in the years since Betty passed on. No doubt the family chose the larger church to accommodate the crowd, but his pastor Michael Smith from Mt. Moriah gave the eulogy and sang the opening hymn. Most appropriate for this humble, devout Christian, the words rang true and pure:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.
But Lord, ’tis for thee, for thy coming we wait, The sky, not the grave is our goal; Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!*
*penned by Horatio G. Spafford in 1873
RIP William Brown Gibbs II, July 3, 1928 – June 2, 2017