Ron Gibbs was born on September 6, 1954, in Peoria, Illinois, to Louis and Diana Gibbs. He passed away at his home in Kodiak on March 7, 2023, after a brief 54-day journey living with cancer. Among many things, Ron was a wild man, a teacher, a healer, and an artist. He loved his family, learning, fishing, sunny Harley rides and tequila.
Ron grew up in Naperville, Illinois. He loved his growing up years in Naperville! He shared so many stories of his life growing up, repeating them often to the point where we could all tell the stories. He remained close to many of his childhood friends right to the end. Ron graduated from Naperville Central High School in 1972 and went on to earn a degree in psychology and ultimately became a teacher in Arizona, Utah, and here in Alaska.
I met Ron while we were both attending Arizona State University and worked at a special needs day camp one summer. We were friends for a long time and ultimately decided to join his crazy, carefree lifestyle with my more subdued, practical approach to life and see what would happen. After teaching in Salt Lake City we made the decision to move to Alaska in the summer of 1980. The original plan was to stay five years and then move back to the Midwest, but we never looked back. Kodiak is home.
Ron worked for the Kodiak Island Borough School District for many years, spending 11 years in the village schools of Chiniak, Karluk, Ouzinkie, and Port Lions before moving into town. Ron was an innovator when it came to teaching. From researching the potential healing properties of devil’s club with secondary students in Ouzinkie, helping create an alternative school for middle school aged students in a store front setting next to King’s Diner, to exploring potential careers around the state with his 6th grade class while teaching at Peterson, he was always creating ways to make learning “real” and relevant for his students. Ron gave his all to teaching and loved his students fiercely. He was well known as a teacher who challenged his students to always strive to do their best. Not everyone agreed with Ron’s style, but you couldn’t deny that teaching was his passion. Outside of school Ron spent many years volunteering for the Kodiak Kids Wrestling Program.
After retiring, Ron found a new passion as a massage therapist. He began this second career in 2004 and had many clients that were with him from the beginning to the end. Many of them became close friends. It was extremely difficult for Ron to close his business in January 2023. He felt he was letting the community down, but he just didn’t have the stamina to continue. Both with teaching and as a massage therapist Ron was the poster child of a “lifelong learner”. He was constantly seeking to become better at both and was even scheduled to attend a class in Anchorage late January for a massage seminar before finding out he had cancer.
Family was everything to Ron! We raised our two children, Chul and Brianna, here in Kodiak and now our grandchildren Collin and Kirra. This past July, sweet Lilliana was born and joined the family. Travis, our son-in-law and Tiffany, our daughter-in-law complete our immediate family. Ron shared with me that he had no regrets in life. His sadness came from knowing he didn’t have very long to live and wouldn’t be around to help Collin, Kirra, and Lilli as they grew up. The amazing people of Kodiak have surrounded us with love and support during our entire time on the island, but most especially the past two months. I know that the Kodiak mindset of “it takes a village” will ensure that Ron’s grand kids will be loved, encouraged, and supported throughout the coming years. We are forever indebted to so many wonderful people.
Ron was preceded in death by his parents, Louis and Diana Gibbs, sister, Doreen Million, and nephew Bryan T. Gibbs. His brother Tom (Sandie) of Naperville, IL, sister Jodi (Emil) of Durham, NC, brother Bill of Batavia, IL., and sisters-in-law Kathy Boylon of Grand Rapids, MI, Mary (Will) Magnuson of Edmonds, WA, and Elizabeth (Van) of Grand Rapids, MI were a vital and important part of Ron’s life. He also truly loved our many nieces and nephews and their growing families on both the Gibbs and Boylon side of our family.
Ron did not want to have a celebration of life, but please feel free to share your stories with us as we’d love to remember Ron through your eyes:
• Patt, Collin, and Kirra Gibbs’ address is 539 Visna Way, Kodiak, AK.
• Brianna, Travis, and Lilli Cooper’s address is 12350 Noch Drive, Kodiak, AK.
• Chul and Tiffany Gibbs’ address is 7231 W. Colonial St., Apt A208, Boise, ID 83709.
We are grateful to Hospice & Palliative Care of Kodiak for helping us help Ron during his final weeks of life. If you are inclined, please consider making a donation to this organization in Ron’s memory. Donations can be sent to HPCK, P.O. Box 8682, Kodiak, AK. 99615. Or, feel free to donate to an organization of your choice in memory of Ron.
Most importantly, like Ron did throughout his life “Believe in your heart that you are meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic, and miracles.” (Roy T. Bennett)
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