John Graves Sibley
Aug. 13, 1944 – March 12, 2017
John Graves Sibley, 72, died on March 12, 2017, at South Peninsula Hospital. He had been fighting leukemia. Recently, he was hospitalized with a pneumonia that he was ultimately unable to overcome.
John’s spirit endures in the memories of his loved ones as a “grand lover of life,” fisherman, seaman, proud pirate, traveler and adventurer, and as a strong, stubborn and positive soul. He was generous and loyal with his friends, strong in his convictions, simple in his lifestyle and free in spirit.
Throughout his 72 years, he often lived the type of adventurous life that many only dream of or hear of in song. As one friend put it, “John was the original most interesting man. He was almost a modern day Hemmingway and like Ernest, not all the stories can be verified. He inspired many others to, as David Thoreau wrote, ‘Live the life you’ve imagined.’ He was a unique and daring dreamer whose enthusiasm was contagious.”
John was an excellent connector, often drawing together people and communities. He enjoyed orchestrating the show. At the same time, he tended to keep many folks at a comfortable arm’s length. If he let you in close, it was a gift that was not given lightly.
John came from a long line of mariners. His brother Rick quoted their Aunt Louise who said, “One of you had got to be involved with the ocean. There’s saltwater in your veins!” John made good on her prophecy.
Fishing and the ocean were staples in his life. John was born in Wakefield, Mass., but discovered his love of the ocean while spending time in Marblehead as a child. The outdoors were always present in his young life, spending much time on the family land in Maine, learning to fish and swim on the lake.
It’s no surprise that he ended up living in Homer, Alaska. He loved to spend the summers fishing on the Anchor and Kenai Rivers and down at the fishing hole. He reveled in introducing others to the area and has taught several children of visiting friends to fish off the Spit. He delighted in sharing and trading his catch with special folks in Alaska, in the lower 48 and around the world.
In his last few decades, John continued his nomadic wonderings and spent many winters traveling abroad. He traveled extensively in South and Central America, the Caribbean and throughout Asia. He was always planning for the next adventure and never gave up on taking another big trip to visit the most special people and places.
John’s absence is deeply felt by many around the world. But, true to how John would have wanted, we will remember him with love and fondness and keep his spirit alive by making the most of our every day.
A bonfire gathering was held on March 21, 2017, on the Homer Spit while family was in town. Another gathering may be scheduled later in the year on the East Coast.
Memorial donations can be made to Doctors Without Borders (doctorswithoutborders.org) or Habitat for Humanity (www.habitat.org). As Hunter S. Thompson said:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”