March 20, 1930 – September 25, 2021
With deeply saddened hearts we share the passing of Donald Frederick Gibb, the patriarch of our family. Dad passed away on Saturday, September 25, 2021, after a lengthy struggle with congestive heart failure. He was a husband, father, brother, uncle, cousin, mentor, friend, but his most treasured roles were those of Grandpa and Great Grandpa.
Dad is survived by his high school sweetheart Maxine, with whom he was married 72 years. He also leaves behind his four children: oldest daughter, Donna and husband Ernie Wall of Squamish; son Bill, and wife Doris (Cyr) Gibb of Kamloops; son Thom, and wife Stephania (Bzdel) Gibb of Abbotsford and daughter Linda, and husband Ken Schroeder also of Abbotsford. His grandchildren: Mike Wall and Kim Scobie, Natalie Wall Pereman, Brian and Katherine Cyr, Andre and Chelsea Cyr, Mike and Erika Bzdel, Andrew Bzdel, David and Lisa Bzdel, Raegan and Ainsley Gibb, Travis and Candice Gibb, Quinton and Andrea Gibb, Karlee and Stuart Schellenberg, and Haylee and Matt Noel. His great grandchildren: Montana, Paisley, Dennie, Wyatt, Hunter, Georgia, Jakob, Henry, Alexander, Jacob, Aidan, Gabriel, David, Camille, Meredith, Lauren, Emma, Gracey, Robbie, Benjamin, Nellee, Millee, Julian, Jolee, Rylee, and Ari. Dad also leaves behind two sisters, Rosalie Russell of Abbotsford and Pat and her husband Gord DeLair of Airdrie, Alberta, along with many cousins, nephews, nieces, and long-time friends.
Dad was born on March 20, 1930, to Charles and Amy (Ross) Gibb at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, BC. Growing up, Dad spent his time between the family farms; first in Arnold on Old Yale Road and then on Wells Line Road on Sumas Prairie; and New Westminster. Dad met Mom, Maxine (Keeping), at Upper Sumas School, where Dad played Prince Charming and Mom was in the chorus of the school’s annual musical play ‘Cinderella’. He had a beautiful voice. They married in 1949 and soon settled into farm life working on a dairy and squash farm on Whidbey Island, Washington, where Donna was born. He also milked cows on the Keeping farm at Kilgard and the Gibb family dairy farm on Sumas Prairie. Somewhere in between, Dad drove milk truck for the Atlantic Transfer Company during the day, picking up full milk cans from local farmers and transporting them back to a variety of dairies – Lucerne, Drake Dairy, Glen Dairy and Jersey Farm Dairy in Vancouver. In the evenings, he worked for the Kilgard Brick Plant, returning home after midnight, soon to do it all over again after a few hours of sleep.
In the spring of 1961, Dad saw an opportunity to work on the WAC Bennett Dam in Hudson’s Hope. He lived in the company camp along side 1,000 other men. It was difficult being apart from his family so in 1963, he bought a travel trailer built as a display model for the New York Worlds Fair. He loaded up the family including the family cocker spaniel Lonesome, the canary Timothy and the cat Twinkle, and headed up the Fraser Canyon Highway for Hudson’s Hope. The trailer was very cozy for a family of six, so it wasn’t long before he set to work building an addition – a mud room, a bedroom for the boys and a living room. Finally, Linda, three at the time, could give up her bed in the bathtub. It occurred to Dad one day as he was driving to the dam for work that he should get his chauffeur’s licence. If he was driving to work anyway, he might as well get paid for driving the employee crummie (work bus). The crummie also required a First Aid attendant, so he got his First Aid ticket. Everyday he worked he had 3 job descriptions which added to the family paycheck.
Being the go-getters they were, Dad and Mom soon took over the management of the BC Hydro trailer park. Although most single men stayed at the work camp near the dam, all engineers, geologists, construction superintendents who arrived with their families from all over North & South America and Europe to work at the dam, lived in temporary housing at BC Hydro’s trailer park. As the company town grew so did the amenities and Dad’s responsibilities. BC Hydro added a swimming pool, a medical clinic, a laundromat, and eventually regular townhouses for permanent BC Hydro executives. As work on the dam was nearly complete, Dad turned to driving school bus which he really enjoyed because he was always great with kids. It was at this time he started to periodically run projectors for the local movie theatre, providing the owner occasional time off.
In 1968, Dad and Mom moved to Fairview, Alberta where they had purchased the Gem Theatre. The Gem was the only theatre for 60 miles around. Heavy duty construction was in Dad’s blood, so he also spent several months working in Beaver River on the scrubbing plant pipeline. In 1971 they sold the Gem Theatre property and moved back to Abbotsford. Soon they were deeply immersed in the development of the Towne Cinema twin movie theatre at the corner of McCallum and King Road, previously a hazelnut orchard. Development permits and architectural plans take time and patience. Dad, not one for sitting around at home, knew that Ernie, Donna’s husband, would welcome some help opening his new business in Squamish – a concrete batch plant to service the development of the new Whistler town centre. Dad helped build the plant, moved sand & gravel, and drove concrete trucks – whatever needed to be done. For several months, he stayed in the area during the week and commuted home on the weekends. Before long things were running smoothly and Dad went back to driving school bus for the Abbotsford School District, until the cinema opened in 1974. In 1981 the twin cinema was doubled to four screens. They also purchased the Mission Cinema and operated that for several years.
Despite being busy with running the fourplex theatre, Dad helped his son Thom with his newest venture, Link Technologies, which was in Delta. Dad carried out many tasks, with Mom’s help, including everything from sweeping the floor, unplugging toilets to adding a second floor to a shop that was about 6,000 ft2 originally. Just in case that wasn’t enough, a few years later, Dad significantly added to the manpower required to move the equipment and instruments to a custom-built building that was four blocks away.
Fifteen years after the addition to four screens, Towne Cinema added five more screens, for a total of nine. The annual theatre conventions were always a highlight of the year, but the ones held in Las Vegas were the most memorable. The Towne Cinema was always known for its tasty popcorn, with people stopping in just to buy a bag. Mom and Dad sold the theatre to their partners in 1997 to begin “retirement”. The Towne Cinema property was sold in 2015 to a developer for a housing project. During those 40 years a lot of popcorn was popped!
In 1990, Mom and Dad purchased a farm with their son Bill on Huntingdon Road. It was here Bill ran a busy veterinary practice and he and Dad tended to a small herd of cattle. Of course, there were renovations to be done. Dad and Mom never moved into a place without doing renovations. Dad helped to do a refresh on the main farmhouse, closed in the garage and built a large shop.
In 2004, Dad and Mom moved to an in-law suite attached to their youngest daughter Linda’s home and shared the property with her family. From his dining room window Dad could enjoy watching grandkids and great grandkids daily, a constant source of entertainment.
Over the years Dad and Mom became a well-oiled machine. Each new venture was done with consultation together and often working side-by-side. Their lifetime partnership was such an example to our family and together they built a legacy from hard work and commitment.
In the past 30 years they enjoyed their annual trip to Hawaii, frequent trips to Northern BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan. A memorable trip to England allowed them to discover a lot of family history and a trip to Kansas where they enjoyed a sizeable family reunion with relatives Dad had never met. In 1983 they purchased a leisure lot in Birch Bay and after retirement were able to spend more time there enjoying meals, drinks, and campfires, with family and friends. Because of Dad’s friendly nature and easy manner, he had many friends and numerous connections throughout the Fraser Valley. He could rarely go into a local business without having a conversation with at least one ol’ friend.
Dad had very limited formal education, but his keen and curious mind made him a lifelong learner. He was a self-taught plumber, electrician, appliance repairman, auto mechanic, home renovator as well as a licensed projectionist. He even took a correspondence course (before the internet) to learn refrigeration. You never heard Dad say, “I can’t fix that”, as he truly seemed to fix anything. Nothing was EVER thrown out, without a good effort to fix it first! Passing on his knowledge to the next generation was where Dad shone. He was a patient and encouraging mentor to many young people throughout his life. He often said, “It’s a poor day if you don’t learn something!” Dad was always a “hands on” person and as children, we remember him stuffing the turkey and sewing it up with a needle and thread. In later years he was a good helper to Mom in the kitchen and even made the treasured Gibb Christmas cake with his oldest daughter, Donna.
Though Dad tired easily he had many things he enjoyed in the last part of his life: a chocolate Wendy’s Frosty; having coffee in the morning at the dining room table reading The Province; catching up on Gunsmoke and Bonanza re-runs in the afternoon; wiener roasts in the backyard; watching the great grandkids jumping on the trampoline; visiting with friends and family; a glass of wine on occasion; going for a drive in the car to see what had changed around town and surrounding valley; sharing a sushi dinner with his grandkids; watching his birds at the feeder; and enjoying a small bouquet of yellow roses from Linda’s garden.
No matter how sick he was Dad always kept his sense of humour. During the last month of his life, we often received comments from nurses and care workers that “Don was a character” and was always trying to tease them. That was Dad’s way. He focused on the positive and if he could share a laugh with you then he was pleased. As a family we would like to thank all doctors, nurses and care workers who helped Dad throughout the last part of his journey. It was a very difficult time for our family and your care did make it easier. A very special thank you to our youngest sister Linda for her compassion, love and tender care for our Dad through the ups and downs of the last few years. It was because of you that he was with us as long as he was.
To commemorate Dad’s life, a family celebration will be held at a later date, due to current restrictions. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Matthew’s House in Abbotsford or another charity of your choice.
We miss you so much already, Dad. You really were the “favourite” in the family. There will never be anyone to take your place. There are so many good memories to keep you alive in our hearts, for which we are so grateful. In closing, we would like to pass on Dad’s favourite comment he made to everyone when saying goodbye: “Take care of yourself”. We will take care of ourselves Dad, and we will take care of Mom too.
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