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Rev. Duane J. Gibson

1940 - 2011 Obituary Condolences
Rev. Duane J. Gibson Obituary
Rev. Duane J. Gibson

Des Moines

The Rev. Duane J. Gibson, 71, longtime pastor at First Baptist Church, died of cancer Saturday at Kavanaugh House hospice. Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, March 2 at 11 a.m., at First Baptist Church in Johnston. Visitation will be Tuesday, March 1 from 4 to 7 p.m., at First Baptist Church in Johnston.

Duane was born January 14, 1940 ,in Chicago and reared in the Julia Lathrop Homes, part of the "projects" north of the city's downtown, by his mother Irene. Through the influence of several coaches and teachers, Duane accepted Christ in high school. That background was the foundation for his lifelong desire to serve Jesus Christ and help those in need.

He was a gifted athlete in his youth. He played football in the military, at Wake Forest, and he went to Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he was captain of the football team, a role he played as life went on?being a leader, inspiring the team, directing the action.

Reverend Gibson received his master's of divinity degree from Bethel College and Seminary in 1968, and his master's in social work from the Jane Addams School of Social Work in 1969. He served as senior pastor with American Baptist churches for 30 years, including First Baptist in Des Moines and then in Johnston from 1983 to 2003. He was involved with American Baptist Churches USA, Des Moines Area Religious Council and Rainbow Acres, a home for mentally-challenged adults in Arizona. He also chaired the advisory board of the Salvation Army in Des Moines; his last major public appearance before being diagnosed with cancer was at the Salvation Army's annual meeting and dinner in mid-November.

While he was pastor at First Baptist Church, when it was located at Eighth and High Streets in downtown Des Moines, he was extremely active in forging social programs. It was under his leadership that the Elsie Mason Manor and Liguitti Towers were built to provide housing for the low-income and elderly. Both were a result of his devotion to inter-faith action. He spent more time out of his office than in it, and gained the reputation as being the "skywalk chaplain" because he spent so much time there ministering to homeless as well as some of the city's power brokers. One acquaintance says, "You could coffee with Duane for an hour and need not add anything to the conversation but an occasional nod of the head. Duane would regale you with stories and experiences and his overwhelming love of God." Reverend Gibson had an incredible sense of humor and a positive outlook.

He was also one of the major fund- raisers for the Central Iowa Honor Flights, which flew World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the World War II Memorial. His dedication to those veterans grew out of his military service in the Army, 1958-1960, of which he was very proud.

Surviving are his loving wife of 44 years, Carolyn; three children, Eric (Jenny) Rainey-Gibson of Clive, Bryan (Jennifer) Gibson of West Des Moines, and Michelle (Mike) Kessler of Ames; nine grandchildren; brothers Dennis Gibson and Ron Melzer and sister Cheryl Janda, and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his mother and a sister, Pat Biedowicz.

The family would like any memorials to be given in honor of Duane to the Salvation Army or Rainbow Acres. Online condolences may be made to

Published in Des Moines Register on Mar. 1, 2011
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