On May 9, 2017, Walter Francis Gibbs of Meadville slipped from this world to meet his Lord with his family by his side after a lengthy period of declining health.
Walter F. Gibbs was born to Walter E. Gibbs and Evelyn Shields Gibbs on March 3, 1933 in Oil City, PA. He entered the United States Marine Corps in 1951 and was stationed at Camp Pendleton in the Heavy Equipment Section. He rose to the rank of Sergeant 1st Class and was awarded the National Defense and Good Conduct medals; he received his honorable discharge in 1954 and a letter of high recommendation from his Captain. Upon his discharge from the Marine Corps, Walter went to work in construction for the BP Rhodes Co. in Reno and then the Louis Kraft construction company in Oil City. He married Beverly Hood on June 18, 1955.
In 1971 Walter became the Regional Equipment Manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, living in Reno and commuting to Harrisburg every week, then traveling to western Pennsylvania districts as his duties required. In 1981 he left this position at the request of his family and became Titusville's Public Works Director, moving to Titusville. Walter married Sharon Pettigrew on June 5, 1987. Walter later returned to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation as District 1 Equipment Manager. Walter and Sharon moved to Conneaut Lake in 1995. He retired from Penn Dot in 1998, but having been such an active person, he went back to work again for the Louis Kraft construction company as a heavy equipment operator until 2006.
In addition to his employment, Walter also served on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission from 1975 to 1986 as the Commissioner at Large representing boating; he served as the Commission's president in 1982. (Commissioners are appointed by the governor and are responsible for initiating and revising the fishing and boating laws of Pennsylvania). Walter was also a life member of the Pennsylvania Boating Association. In 1973 he joined the Oil City and New Castle Masonic lodges. He was a member and past president of the Titusville Lion's Club. Additionally he served on the Northwest Regional Planning and Development Commission for a period of time.
Boating and fishing remained a lifelong pursuit for Walter. He and Sharon attended the launch and commissioning of the Flagship Niagara in Erie; the reopening of the Statue of Liberty in New York City in 1986 with the parade of Tall Ships, and the Three Rivers Regattas in Pittsburgh. Walter loved to water ski and had skied competitively on Conneaut Lake and recreationally on Tionesta reservoir; he taught his daughters and grandchildren to love this water sport. He and his wife would be found many weekends on Lake Erie fishing for Walleye or Perch. Trout fishing was another love of his; he would also help with stocking the trout streams in Crawford County. He taught his oldest grandchildren the art of fishing. He was an expert marksman and enjoyed deer and squirrel hunting and hunting rabbits with his beagle.
A lifetime goal of Walter was to research and trace his roots "back to the old country" when he retired. He and his wife accomplished this and made several trips to the British Isles to the cities and parishes where many of their ancestors had lived, had been baptized, married and were buried. On one trip he took his two daughters to show them where their ancestors had lived.
Walter spent his happiest times with his family, his daughters, his grandchildren, his friends, and, in his later years, his faithful Brittany dog, Duke, who was truly his therapy dog. His eyes would light up and tears would come to his eyes whenever his grandchildren would surprise him with a visit; he had a very tender and loving heart and appreciated any kindness shown to him. His Lord and his church were an important part of his life, his pastors and his church friends meant much to him.
We gratefully thank his doctor of many years, Dr. Paul Oyler, who was also a good friend to Walter. And we gratefully thank the hospice team of nurses and aides for their incredible care and support during Walter's final months.
Walter was preceded in death by his father, Walter E. Gibbs (1935), his mother, Evelyn Shields Gibbs Moyer (1994), his sister, Shirley Gibbs Dayton (2014), his daughter, Karen Gibbs White (2013), his first wife, Beverly Gibbs Brown (2002), his paternal grandmother, Margaret May Heidinger Gibbs (1972), his paternal aunt, Dorothy Gibbs Woodley (1987), his maternal uncles, Orville Shields (2000), Neil Shields (2001), Edward Shields (2007), Peter Shields (2012), Lewis Shields (2013).
He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Sharon Pettigrew Gibbs; his daughter, Connie Frantz and husband Tom of Meadville, PA; his grandchildren Allison Carr and husband Matthew of St. Petersburg, FL, Bryan Frantz of Houston, TX, Chandra Potter and husband Michael of Wilmington, NC; Dana Harris of Los Angeles, CA; two great-grandsons, Matthew Manuel Carr and Bodhi Thomas Potter; his step-sister, Sandy Thompson and husband Jack of China Grove, NC; his step-brother, William Moyer in Texas; paternal cousins, Linda Weber and husband Randy and Georgia Lozier and husband Dan both of Union City, PA, George Woodley and wife Lynea of Centerville, PA; his maternal cousins, Marge McFetridge and husband Pat, Terrie Coyle and husband Bud, Kitty Richards and husband Doug and Dan Shields and wife Kathy all of Seneca, PA, Deana Beach of Oil City, Pat Rosenberg of Cheyenne,WY; and many nieces and nephews.
Family and friends are invited to call on Friday, May 12, 2017, from 2-4 and 6-8 at STEPHEN P. MIZNER FUNERAL HOME & CREMATION SERVICES, INC., 404 CHESTNUT ST., MEADVILLE, PA 16335. Family and friends are also invited to call on Saturday, from 10-10:30 AM at Trinity United Methodist Church, N. 3rd St., Conneaut Lake, where Funeral Services will be held at 10:30 AM with Rev. Jay Sterling, Pastor, officiating. Full Military Honors will follow.
Walter will be laid to rest in Grove Hill Cemetery, Oil City.
In lieu of flowers the family requests that any donations be made to Habitat for Humanity, 129 Franklin St., Sharon, PA 16146 or Hospice of Crawford County, 766 Liberty St., Meadville.
Share a memory or condolence at www.miznerfuneralhome.com.
Published on May 10, 2017