Over the years, Sam Gibbons was treasurer of several organizations. He was good with numbers and thrifty.
But maybe he was too thrifty. In the end, he allotted us only 95 years.
“Mr. Sam” died quietly alone in his home Monday, March 22, 2010.
His son, Howard Gibbons, said Tuesday that was the way Sam would have wanted it. No fuss.
The younger Gibbons said his father, whom he always called “Sam,” had cared for his mother, Fern, for 15 years at home after she lost her sight to macular degeneration. In recent years after Fern moved to Limestone Health Facility, Sam came faithfully every day to help her with lunch.
The former marketing manager of ConAgra Poultry and 36-year manager of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn., Sam attained notable achievements in his professional life.
But it is for his volunteerism and devotion to this community, in which he had lived for the past 50 years, that he will be most remembered.
Samuel Howard Gibbons was born Nov. 3, 1914, in Calera to S. Howard and Laura Johnson Gibbons. He graduated in 1937 from Alabama Polytechnic Institute in Auburn with a degree in Landscape Architecture and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Reserves.
He moved to Athens from Lewisburg, Tenn., where he operated Murray Farm. After moving to Athens, he and his family became members of First United Methodist Church, where he was a longtime member of the board of trustees and the former finance chairman.
Sam was a World War II veteran. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, many of his acquaintances chomped at the bit to get into the action, but Sam told local attorney and author Jerry Barksdale, “I wasn’t a hero. I was trying to get it over.”
He served with the 79th Division, landing at Utah Beach on June 14, 1944 — “D-Day, plus 8” –– and fought across France, crossing into Belgium and Holland, and by January 1945 was firing across the Rhine River during one of the coldest winters in 50 years.
He was promoted to lieutenant colonel a week before the Germans surrendered on May 8, 1945. He was awarded the Bronze Star for valor along with several other distinguished citations and awards.
Howard Gibbons said his father never spoke much about his military service until he became a member and treasurer of the Alabama Veterans Museum & Archives Board of Directors in 1995. He served on the board up until the time of his death.
Sam retired from ConAgra in 1984 and was named a member of the Alabama Poultry Hall of Fame. In 1985, he joined the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, for which he served as vice-chairman of the board since 1995. He also served as volunteer coordinator for the Limestone County income tax preparation program for low income and elderly residents since 1986. Under his leadership, he recruited male professional volunteers — which he felt had been an oversight — and the program continued and is now in its 24th year, serving 1,500 individuals annually in Limestone and Morgan counties.
Sam also volunteered with the Limestone County Department of Health. He recruited male professionals for the health department, also, to work one day a week, assisting with immunizations, flu shots, distribution of sex education literature and well-baby clinics.
Sam was a member of the Beautification Board and coordinated the Arbor Day Foundation school program. He was also recognized by the Greater Limestone Chamber of Commerce with its Citizen of the Year award.
“Sam was a man of integrity, high moral values, and a committed volunteer to his community, state and country,” said the younger Gibbons. “He remained active in the community until his death.”
He was predeceased by his parents, a brother and three sisters.
Mr. Gibbons is survived by his wife of 68 years, Fern Howell Gibbons; his son and daughter-in-law, Howard and Kris Gibbons of Shelbyville, Ky., two sisters, Laura Schwarz of Blairsville, Ga., and Katherine Ott of Waterloo, Iowa; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
There will be a memorial service at 10 a.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church, after which the family will receive friends. There will be a private internment service, with McConnell Funeral Home directing.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to: Alabama Veterans Museum & Archives, Box 1500, Athens, AL 35612; First United Methodist Church, or a favorite charity.