Susan Ann Gibson
March 12, 1952-Aug. 23, 2015
Susan Ann Gibson died at home on Aug. 23, 2015, in the middle of a sunny afternoon. She was born in Salem, Ore., on March 12, 1952, to Elvin and Elaine Barrowcliff. She was the youngest of three. Her father and brother Wayne live in Homer, and her oldest brother, Bob, lives in Castle Rock, Wash. Her first job was picking strawberries for commercial growers in Oregon.
When she was 21, Sue met Steve Gibson. They lived together in Jacksonville, Ore., before making an exploratory trip through Canada and Alaska. They decided to make Homer, Alaska, their home and caravanned up with family and friends in 1975. The first winter was spent in a cabin out East End Road, and the next year they bought property and started to build their own house. Sue became stepmother to Steve’s daughters Sam and Jennifer and, over the next few years, mother to Amanda and Ben. She was an exceptional mom. Her kids today, who have kids of their own, are still wondering how she did it.
When she was living out East End Road and raising a family on little money, Sue baked delicious bread, carried groceries from the car in a backpack, sold goat milk, processed halibut, gardened and took care of a slew of chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats, and, once, a cow and pigs. She loved animals and would later make frequent donations to Heifer International. She fed us all, kept us in line, and made sure we knew she loved us.
She helped birth countless baby goats and, eventually, two granddaughters. Her presence was reassuring and strong. When Amanda was in labor she made her feel like everything would be fine. It’s easy to imagine the goats felt the same way. Amanda thinks about her role in those births almost every day.
Books were a big part of Sue’s life and she spent hours listening to and reading them. She started volunteering at the Homer Public Library in the 1980s and then became an employee. She loved working there and retired late in 2013. One of her favorite aspects of working at the library was selecting and delivering books to homebound patrons. She formed many friendships that way. Her coworkers at the library are amazing people. She was grateful to them for their good company, their humor and their help learning many things. She brought home stacks of books to read for herself, for her husband, for her kids and grandkids — books on cooking, gardening, politics, mysteries, fantasy and science fiction.
She liked chocolate milkshakes, lentil salads, good sandwiches and green tea. She enjoyed knitting, especially starting new projects, but was annoyed at how hard it could be to finish things. Gardening was important to her too. For the past 40 years she has started seeds, planted out starts, watered plants, weeded, schemed on new garden beds, and cursed pushki and chickweed.
Despite her deep connection to her family and friends and the Homer community, Sue was aghast at the idea of a memorial service. Those who knew her well are probably not surprised. Sue was not a very social person (outside of the library) and yet a lot of people loved her.
“Throughout her illness friends and family have communicated that love so well, with food, flowers, incredibly thoughtful cards, and reflections on shared lives. She was so grateful to you all,” her family said.
“Sue was married to a sawmiller for 40 years and had to put up with a lot of sawdust in the dryer. She had four kids who harassed her in various loving ways and was Grandma Susie to eight flawless grandchildren. She had many, many good reasons to roll her eyes at us.
“We miss her terribly.”