Obituary Details

George Dewey Gibson Jr.

(09/22/1899 - 03/01/1960)
Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 03/10/1960

Funeral For George Gibson, Man Who Meant Much to Community, Held Sat.

Funeral mass for George Gibson, who died March 1, was held at St. Leo's Catholic Church at 10:00 a.m. Saturday with Father M. J. McBrien officiating.

Active pallbearers were: John Mueller, of Hot Springs, Glen Cates and Charley Astler of Cheyenne, Richard Pfister Jr., Arthur Keller, James Barrett, Arthur Dalgarno and George Mordock. Honorary Bearers were: Don Richardson, C. E. Marvin, Oscar Bostrom, Earl Manthe, Frank Chambers, Andrew McMaster, Dick Dempter, Menno Kaan, Cecil Stark, John Agnew, C. W. Irwin, Richard Pfister, Sr. J. B. Griffith Sr. and Roy Chamberlain.

George Gibson, Jr. was born September 22, 1900 to Anna Marie Mueller and George Gibson, Sr. in Hot Springs So. Dak. The senior Gibsons were pioneers in that area of the Black Hills. In the beautiful setting of the Black Hills Mr. Gibson spent a happy childhood. All his life he liked to tell stories, and he was at his best when he was telling of the happenings of those early days in the southern Black Hills.

When World War I broke out George couldn't resist the call to the colors and quit high school, lied about his age, and joined the army. He was only 17 and the legal age was 18. He served along the border of New Mexico in a medical detachment. After his discharge on January 5, 1920 he returned to Hot Springs and to high school where he later was graduated. During his high school days he was recognized as an outstanding athlete and won awards for his debating skill. During his early years in Lusk he was called Hot Springs High Gibson.

He attended Northwestern University one year. In recent years he adopted the University of Wyoming as his own and would go to any length to see a University of Wyoming football game.

He came to Lusk in 1923 and during the 36 years of residence here left an indelible mark on the community and its people.

Ethel Arnold and George Gibson were married January 10, 1929. They were the parents' one daughter, Georgeann.

Success in Business
Mr. Gibson came to Lusk to close out the Austin-Elquist-Slack Company and had intended to stay only a few months. He liked Lusk and after a period he, Dick Dempster and Don Blum bought the company which was then located in the building which is now occupied by Niobrara Motors.

In the summer of 1933, the Midwest moved into more commodious quarters when Mr. Gibson purchased the Snyder Mercantile Company building.

The Midwest Skelgas Company was established in 1929 and was one of the first dealerships to be set up in the United States.

Until a few years ago Mr. Gibson was also the owner of the Sheridan Hotel at Gordon, Nebr. and at the time of his death was a partner in the Hotel Washakie at Worland.

During his years in Lusk he was the hub of community activity. If there were a community activity, more than likely George started it; but even if he didn't he would work tirelessly to see that it went over. He was such a strong member of the Lusk Lions Club that last Thursday night that organization cancelled its regular program out of respect for him.

The American Legion occupied a special soft spot in his heart. He served the local post as commander and was Department vice-commander in 1937. In 1949, as general chairman of the State Convention, he was largely responsible for a never-to-be-forgotten convention.

During recent years he worked at the promotion of B.P.O. Elks events.

Floats and parades were more than just a hobby with him. They were serious business and he paid close personal attention to every detail. He never was known to have made a mediocre float or worked on a poor parade. His were all productions. The late Keith Rider, writing in the Douglas Budget, said this about one of his last great floats: "In years gone by, we have attended some of the most famous parades in the nation, but can't remember any float that surpasses the Showboat George and Ethel of the Midwest Hardware in Lusk had in the Wyoming State Fair Parade."

While George's interests were wide in the promotion of the community, his favorite was doubtless "The Legend of Rawhide" pageant. He helped from the start and his efforts encouraged others.

Perhaps his crowning achievement came just before the 1959 presentation when he engineered an Indian rifle hoax the news of which spread from coast to coast and even overseas. His primary reason for promoting the hoax was to advertise the Pageant. He was also working to see if a national celebrity could be enticed to come to this year's presentation just before his death.

At the time of his death, Mr. Gibson was a member of the Wyoming Natural Resources Board. He was appointed to the position in 1955 by Gov. Milward Simpson and took great pride standing by his guns whenever he felt the welfare of the people of Wyoming were concerned.

He is survived by his wife, Ethel; daughter, Mrs. Jim Ryan; two sisters, Mrs. Mable Schwaner of Scottsbluff, Mrs. Tom Gee of Worland, and three granddaughters.

George Gibson
Back in January 1953 Niobrara County held a giant card party, one of numerous events that helped raise over $3500 that year for the March of Dimes. part of the program that night was the presentation of a take-off on "South Pacific" by the Lusk Lions Club. George Gibson had originated the idea of the skit for a Lion ladies night a few months before.

As usual, George had the idea, but getting a group to go along with it was tough, He was the only one at the time who had seen the show. Several of the dignified Lions weren't about to make an ass of themselves, dancing in women's bathing suits, taking a shower.....but the Lions did do it, just as people usually did a job that George had decided would succeed. Tempers flared at times. George got mad enough to walk out, and darned near did. but eventually the show went on for the ladies and it was such a hit that it was used two times later.

George, with all the showmanship that was inherent in his indomitable personality, played the part of Bloody Mary, the old toothless, leather-skinned native woman. At that time we ran the following editorial:

Dang your soul there have been other occasions when we would liked to have expressed just how we felt, but you always
said, "Now I don't want my name on this."

But when you go on the stage, that's different. You put yourself up before the public, for praise or for criticism as they choose. And that's the way things stand now.

If you had just gotten out there to be a part of the show, you would have deserved a nice applause for a good character portrayal, but many of us feel that the whole card party was a success because you determined it would be and spent countless hours to see that such was the case.

Some day, you darned old fool, you'll drop over from going at such a pace, but if you do it will be a long, long time before the community forgets the countless projects you have engineered out of loyalty and faith in this, our town and county, or before it forgets the many pranks you have played just to make life a little more livable and fun.

Cancel your advertising if you wish, but dammit, we have had our say.

Last week in the happiness of his daughter's home with his grandchildren, George Gibson died. To recapture some of the memories of his colorful life, we borrowed the two giant, leather-covered scrap books that George kept handy in the office of Midwest Hardware. In one we found a copy of the editorial. Sometime after the show he had confided, "I cried a bit when I read what you had written." And that was George, too.

And while he was usually the loudest spectator on the sidelines of a football field, he was also wonderfully sensitive , kind and generous. Few, if any men of the community , had more friends among children and the high school students. Although he was a devout Catholic, other churches looked upon him as a generous friend.

Politically, he was an ardent liberal and Democrat. He was an insatiable reader of both books and periodicals and a keen student of world, national, and state affairs. He loved argument which was inevitable with his countless friends of Republican faith and more conservative bents.

But he was competitive in what ever he did. His business revealed this nature, but it was just as apparent in his fervor for victory in any school competition or the rivalry of community activity, The success of a 4-H team, a beauty queen, a high school band, was his pride as well as theirs , He was as proud in having a fellow businessman win a signal honor as when his own store on several occasions won national show window competition.

We wish we could tell the story his handsome scrap books tell. (To be sure, many of the clippings and pictures lie loose, because it is doubtful if George would ever have had the time to complete them.) You think back--wood chopping contestant, Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage, Legion Convention, sidewalk cake party, pancake feeds, booster trips street dances, golf feuds with James B. Griffith, Sr., conspiracies with Blonde Marvin, farmer-rancher banquet, carload sales events, his campaign of over 20 years against C.W. Erwin for the non-existent office of fourth vice-president of the Lions Club---just to name a few.

And then, of course, the pageant. Since its inception in 1946 by his good friend and collaborator in many a promotion, Doc Reckling, "The Legend of Rawhide was to become George's passion and pride, And it is going t be difficult to think of the presentation without him. His garage was the pageant wardrobe, his living room the planning and recording room for intermission scenes. In fact the intermission scenes were his idea, and one of those Sunday afternoons when the scenes were in the making was typical of George's crowded life---the lovers practicing at the piano, the family of the religious scene in another corner, the poker players in the kitchen.

The 7th Cavalry Band was his idea, too, and the business men's coffees to help move planning and preparation along. He alone got Life to photograph the pageant. The Rifle Hoax of last year was his crowning promotion. During the last summer when he dared not lift a stone, he was still on the grounds to help supervise the preparations. The red undershirt and renegade army pants he always wore were still in the presentation of 1959, although the feet of the wearer moved slowly.

He was determined to consummate one last pageant project--the pancake party of a few weeks ago. He made the scrambled eggs, insisted on sage brush and covered wagons for tables, served in the chef's hat he has worn on so many occasions, sang with a quartet at the business meeting, and would have stayed for "just one dance" had Ethel not steered him home.

Then last Sunday before starting south, he stopped at the home of Oscar Bostrum, whose able hands have been incorporated in so many a Gibson project. He wanted to talk a bit about the scene at the spring for this next pageant. "I just may not be around for this next one." he said.

Images & Attachments

George Gibson Jr.

Gravestone photos courtesy of the Joshua Brackett Eagle Scout Project

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