FAYETTEVILLE - Mrs. Bertha Beatrice Desdemona Whittington Gibbs, 94, most recently of Fayetteville, made her transition on Wednesday, April 3, 2013, after a valiant battle with cancer. Born in Goldsboro, on Oct. 19, 1918, to Samuel Windsor and Bertha Kincaid Whittington, she married the love of her life, James Albert Gibbs Jr., on Christmas Eve 1943. Blessed with a natural curiosity and a love of the arts that lasted until the very end, she was the embodiment of grace and beauty. A graduate of Fisk University, class of 1938 (Bachelor of Science in mathematics), and an active member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority for 78 years (Pi Chapter, Fisk University and graduate chapters in Boston and Chicago), Bertha received a degree in library sciences from University of Illinois in 1943. A member of the American Library Association and The Special Libraries Association, her special librarian training would launch a 40-year career that took her to Kentucky State College, Hampton Institute, Fisk University, Virginia Union University, Harvard University, the Boston University Library, the Illinois Institute of Technology, the library at the Field Museum of Natural History, University of Chicago's John Crerar Library, as well as the Chicago Public Library. She retired in 1982, from the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library. An accomplished seamstress and pianist, she shared her love of the arts, fabrics and music with her "Gibbs Girls," Judith Carol of Bronx, N.Y.; Cynthia Wilson of Fayetteville; Karen Gibbs of Owings Mills, Md.; and Leona Gibbs Mayo of Chicago. Bertha exhibited her community activism through her work with the October Circle and the Couples Club of the Congregational Church of Park Manor UCC, the Chicago Fisk Alumni Club, and her service as Brownie Troop Leader in Boston and Chicago. With her husband, James, she wrote letters to President Johnson, Vice President Humphrey, and Illinois Sen. Dirksen urging the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She proudly voted for President Obama - twice. Her insatiable curiosity and child-like wonder made her a great travel buddy and led her to adventures in China, Hawaii and Mexico; cruises to the Caribbean; language classes in Russian and Chinese; as well as culinary classes from the renowned chef, Alma Loch. A cast iron skillet disguised as a diminutive china doll, she relished her role as matriarch. Sharp of mind, quick of wit and blessed with an infectious laugh, Bertha was truly a renaissance woman - excelling at mathematics when many women were demeaned for being smart, yet grounded in the traditions of her family (pressing her daughters' hair) and history, chronicling important family milestones and passing down favorite cookie (hermits) and bread (biscuit and yeast rolls) recipes to succeeding generations. Bertha was preceded in death by her husband, James (1989); her sister, Aurelia Elizabeth Whittington Franklin; and brother-in-law, Dr. John Hope Franklin, her brother, Samuel Wall Whittington and his wife, Ernestine Whittington; and her grandson, Kenneth Chioke Capers. Her passing is mourned not only by her daughters, but by her son-in-laws, James Randal Wilson Jr. and Thomas Bolton Mayo III; and her grandchildren, Jasmine Ramona Wilson and Jared Rustin Wilson; niece, Vanessa Whittington Brown; and nephews, Sam Whittington, John Whittington Franklin and Joseph Ronald Bunton will also miss the presence of Aunt Pard. She cared deeply for each family member. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, 2013, at Herring Funeral Care & Cremations, 2720 Murchison Road, Fayetteville. Donations may be made in her name to the Cumberland County Community Action Program in Fayetteville, ccap-inc.org/donate/,
and/or the American Cancer Society, cancer.org/involved/donate/donate
This obituary was originally published in the Fayetteville Observer.