CHAPEL HILL — Richard Austin "Dick" Gilbert died on Jan. 19, 2014 at Duke Hospital in Durham. He was 97.
Born in Chicago, Ill. on June 6, 1916 to Phil Edward and Florence Miller Gilbert, he graduated from Evanston High School then Dartmouth College and received his MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth in 1939. He was a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity and was a star backstroke swimmer on the Dartmouth swim team, where for many years he held several college records. He was slated to swim in the 1940 Olympics until they were canceled due to the Second World War. Upon graduation, he enlisted in Officer Candidate School at Duke University and was then transferred to Florence, S.C. as a major in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
He met his wife of 61 years, Marie Laurence Rogers, in Florence where they married in 1946, launching a devoted and loving partnership. Initially, Marie and Dick lived in South Carolina where he was a vice president with Liberty Life Insurance Corporation. Their son Richard Austin Gilbert, Jr. was born, followed by their daughter Marie Laurence Gilbert. Shortly after the birth of their second child, Dick was called to serve in Korea as a major in the Air Force, where he was active for twelve months.
Returning from Korea, he accepted a position as Corporate Comptroller of McDonnell Douglas Aircraft and moved his family to St. Louis, where Dick was involved in setting up the computer systems for McDonnell Douglas which included the system for the first satellite to orbit the earth carrying chimpanzees. He later became vice president of Mead Paper Corporation and moved his family to Dayton, Ohio, at which point he was recognized as a leading pioneer in computer systems for large corporations. In 1969, they moved to Greensboro, where his family resided for 35 years, during which he worked as vice president with Burlington Industries.
Initially retiring in 1975, he returned to the corporate world as the court appointed trustee of the Washington Group for several years. He semi-retired again, working for himself as a part time financial advisor and spending time in the places he and Marie loved. They built their dream beach home in DeBordieu Colony in South Carolina, splitting their time between the beach, Greensboro and their lovely winter hideaway in Stuart, Fla. Dick and Marie felt at home on the coast, and their time at the beach brought many guests to share their island homes along with children and grandchildren for over 30 years.
In 2006, as Dick was approaching his 90th birthday and Marie was making headlines in the literary world as a regionally and nationally known poet, the couple decided to move to a retirement community in Laurinburg so that Marie could be close to St. Andrews College where she taught, wrote poetry, and attended classes. They loved being close to the coast, midway between the homes of both children, Austin and Laurie. When Marie suffered a stroke at age 83 from which she subsequently died, Dick moved to the Cedars of Chapel Hill Retirement Community where he met many friends and enjoyed the surroundings of the Chapel Hill community.
During their lifetimes, Dick and Marie established an endowment for the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series and an endowment for the Tuck School of Business, Finance Faculty. He was also a member of numerous community boards, a devoted member of Kiwanis, and a loyal Salvation Army supporter.
Dick was a dear friend and valued advisor to many, a loving and devoted husband, and a beloved father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He is survived by two children: son Richard Austin Gilbert, Jr. and his wife Elizabeth Young Gilbert of Florence, S.C. and daughter Laurie Gilbert Sanford and her husband James Terry Sanford Jr. of Durham, four granddaughters, and one great-granddaughter.
A celebration of life service will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday in St. Philips Episcopal Church in Durham.
Memorials may be made to the Duke Cancer Center, 20 Duke Medicine Circle, Durham, NC 27710, or Guiding Eyes for the Blind, 611 Granite Springs Road, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598.
Howerton & Bryan Funeral Home is assisting the Gilbert family.