John Gibbons, 84, Water Dept. inspector, veteran, father

John M. Gibbons Sr.
John M. Gibbons Sr.
Posted: July 05, 2014

John M. Gibbons Sr., 84, of Roxborough, a Philadelphia Water Department inspector for 33 years, died Friday, June 27, of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at St. Mary Manor, Lansdale.

Known as Jack, Mr. Martin was raised during the Great Depression in the predominantly ethnic Irish neighborhood of Swampoodle in North Philadelphia.

He graduated from Roman Catholic High School in 1948 and served in the Korean War as a corporal in the Eighth Army's Second Engineer Unit - 341st Engineer Panel Bridge Company.

Though his unit was supposed to build bridges, it ended up in heavy fighting, especially during the brutal winter of 1951 that ultimately led to U.N. forces' recapturing Seoul.

As a result, Mr. Gibbons was awarded the U.N. Service Medal and the Korean Service Medal with three bronze service stars.

After returning from the war, Mr. Gibbons married Joan Baird in 1953. The two started a family in Mount Airy, but moved to Roxborough, where they raised 11 children.

"We ate in shifts - first the older ones, then the middle, then the younger ones," said his son Christopher. "It was a great way to grow up."

Mr. Gibbons worked for the Water Department as a construction inspector for 33 years. After retiring from the department in 1985, Mr. Gibbons joined the American Society for Testing and Materials in Conshohocken. Mr. Gibbons worked there for 12 years, and retired with his wife to Cape May County, N.J., in 1997.

Mr. Gibbons was proud of his Irish heritage and his family. He coached his sons, and hundreds of other boys, in Little League baseball and basketball at the Water Tower Recreation Center in Chestnut Hill during the 1960s.

Mr. Gibbons was known for his love of big-band music and for his sharp wit, trivia knowledge, and keen memory.

Often, he and friends "entertained each other with terrific old stories and good sports talk over cold beers in Roxborough's legendary Domino Lounge," his family recalled in a tribute.

Later, he frequented VFW Post 1963 in Sea Isle City, N.J., with his sons.

Mr. Gibbons was a man of staunch Roman Catholic faith. He knew he would be reunited in the afterlife with his eldest son, John M. Jr., he often told family members.

"Jack Jr." drowned in the Schuylkill in 1972 while swimming with friends, several months after graduating from Roman. Mr. Gibbons took the call telling of his son's death and identified the body.

"I don't think my father shone any brighter than during that period," Christopher Gibbons said. "He held the family together."

Surviving, besides his wife and son, are sons Gerald, Michael, Mark, Patrick, and Daniel; daughters Rosemary Summers, Sarah A. Gibbons, Laura Owen, and Mary McGonagle; 18 grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Funeral services were Wednesday, July 2.

Donations can be made to the John M. Gibbons Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund, Roman Catholic High School, 301 N. Broad St., Philadelphia 19107.


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