MARION - Thomas Francis "Tom" Gibson, age 86, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at the McDowell Hospital in Marion, North Carolina. His loving family was with him at his passing and rejoices that he is with his Lord. A native of Cordova in Orangeburg County, SC, he was born on March 20, 1926 to the late Carl Sawyer Gibson and Gladys Goodson Gibson. Tom's family moved to McDowell County in 1934, where he attended Pleasant Gardens School and graduated from Marion High School.
Tom was a veteran of the U.S. Navy
, enlisting at the age of 17 and serving in the Atlantic and Pacific Theatres aboard the U.S.S. Albemarle. Following his discharge he attended Brevard College, and subsequently Wake Forest University, graduating with a B.S. in Pre-Med. Tom taught 8th grade at Clinchfield Jr. High in Marion for two years before enrolling in the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, receiving his Master's Degree in Health Education. In 1948 he married his childhood sweetheart, Margaret Westmoreland.
From 1952 to 1955 Tom served as Executive Director of the Mecklenburg County Tuberculosis and Health Association. From 1955 until his retirement in 1986 he was employed first as Director of Health Education and Training, while also directing the Georgia Mental Health Planning Project. He later became the Director of Primary Health Care, responsible for setting up and staffing primary care facilities throughout rural Georgia. During his tenure with Primary Health Care, Tom attended law school at night and earned his J.D. at the age of 51.
Tom's volunteerism began at an early age with the TB Society (now American Lung Association) while still in college, and his involvement with ALA spanned more than 50 years. He served as National President of ALA from 1996 to 1997, and was awarded the prestigious Will Ross Medal for volunteerism and contributions to the prevention and control of lung disease. Further organizations where Tom volunteered throughout the years include Andean Rural Health Care, Task Force for the Homeless, Habitat for Humanity, Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and Meals on Wheels. Tom was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Marion and enjoyed attending the Senior Men's Class at Glenwood Baptist Church.
Tom and Margaret returned to their hometown of Marion in 1998, where they enjoyed traveling, gardening and family time before Margaret's passing in 2004. Tom's love of family and friends, and the time spent with them, were the most important things in his life. His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were his greatest joys…and of course, his dog, "Babe". A gentle, kind man and a wonderful husband, father and grandfather, his life was spent in humble service to those in need and in quiet grace with those he loved.
Tom is survived by his four children: Dee Montgomery and her husband, Mark, Paige Gibson and his wife, Susan, Jim Gibson and his wife, Kenita, and Jeannie Porter. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Erik Montgomery and his wife, Renee, Neill Gibson and his wife, Charissa, Sarah Kotronis and her husband, Paul, Kyle Porter, Rebekah Mace and her husband, Tyler, and Rachel Gibson. His great-grandchildren include Stone, Bethel, Peter, John, Joshua, Hannah, Grace and Abigail Gibson and Ian and Elijah Kotronis.
The family will receive friends on Saturday evening, February 23, 2013, from 4 to 6 PM at Westmoreland Chapel. A celebration of Tom's life will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 2 p.m. in Westmoreland Chapel with Revs. Kent Smith and Jim Brewer officiating. Tom will be laid to rest beside Margaret at Oak Grove Cemetery with military graveside rites provided by Catawba County Honor Guard. Memorials may be made to the Margaret Westmoreland Gibson fund of the McDowell Foundation, P.O. Box 55, Marion, NC 28752. An online register is available under OBITUARIES at www.westmorelandfuneralhome.com