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Gibson honored as Kiwanian of the Year

John Gibson, second from right, is joined by his son, Jay, left, and daughter-in-law, Clair, and Kiwanis International trustee Gary 'Coop' Cooper. John Gibson, second from right, is joined by his son, Jay, left, and daughter-in-law, Clair, and Kiwanis International trustee Gary 'Coop' Cooper.

John Gibson, who has 46 years of perfect attendance at Kiwanis clubs in Bartow, Florida, and Hendersonville, was honored as the first John Grear Kiwanian of the Year on June 30 at Cascades Mountain Resort.

John Efford Grear III, who died unexpectedly on Feb. 17, 2019, was a longtime Kiwanian who was beloved for his work on numerous club projects but especially for his leadership of the Shoes & Socks program, which buys shoes for needy children.
“He didn't need to always be the person at the podium,” Erika McGilley, a past club president, told Kiwanians. “He was the person that made things happen. But clearly the most important thing to him and what I have the greatest fondness about was his affection and his dedication to the Kiwanis Shoes & Socks program. … He would present to the club thank you notes from the children who had gotten the shoes and you could clearly see how much that meant to him and how much he enjoyed the whole process.”
Gibson, who was chief chemist for a mineral and chemical company in his hometown in Florida’s citrus region, joined the Bartow Kiwanis Club on Sept. 5, 1975, and transferred to the Hendersonville club in 2002.
Kiwanians and members of the Gibson and Grear families paid tribute to both “John Gs” during the dinner meeting.
Gibson’s son, Tim, who was unable to attend, sent a tribute via email.
“My earliest memory as a child was going to the annual pancake breakfast that you organized, cooked and served with a smile,” he said. “I was amazed at how much you were doing and how grateful we were when you took a break to be with your kids. Later when I was in high school in the Key Club, I got to work alongside you at the pancake breakfast and you were so patient with the Key Club to show us the correct way to cook, serve and clean up.”

Bill Stanley, a retired Air Force colonel who has served with Gibson in both the civic club and as an elder of Pinecrest Presbyterian Church, praised his friend.
“I want you all to know that John serves people and genuinely helps,” Stanley said. “As a family man, he cares for and loves his family and takes the best care possible of those who are dear to him. As a Kiwanian his attitude of service and commitment as always been at the forefront, no matter what the project is, from picking up trash around, to cooking pancakes and anything to do with kids are those that need help
Through health problems of his family and his own, “John has been an example of strong and courageous, just as God urges us to be. And it's a delight of my life that I have been able to associate with this wonderful man as he has and still does set an example for all who know him.”

John’s son, Jay, thanked his father for being “a rock” the family always counts on.
“There's some very important things in life that my dad really taught me. One was the importance of faith.’ He's been active in his church. He's always said, ‘The Lord will never give anything you cannot handle. Our family has been through a lot of health issues lately and he's never changed his way of being steady and a rock that all of us can hang on to. The next thing he's taught me is put family first. He was always there for us, encouraging us and helping us through life, giving advice, even if we didn't ask for it some time.”
Gibson recalled that his first contribution to the Bartow Kiwanis Club was to organize a pancake breakfast fundraiser, which attracted 300 diners the first year at a Methodist Church and later grew to as many as 1,500 as Bartow’s civic center.
“The breakfast ran from six o'clock in the morning to six o'clock at night,” he said. “We served breakfast, lunch and supper — the same food.”
When he moved north to Hendersonville he brought his pancake expertise with him, describing how he had to teach the club’s chief pancake flipper to add vegetable oil to the batter to prevent sticking. He has devoted time to many projects but also gained pleasure from his time in the club.
“I've done about everything I can for Kiwanis,” he said. “I've been to 10 national conventions, taking my wife. We were able to travel all over the country and she saw 48 states that we went to because when we would go to a convention we would visit six states because we would take three weeks off.”
In closing, Gibson presented a $100 check the Shoes & Socks program and challenged all Kiwanians to follow his lead and make a donation to the cause in memory of John Grear.