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Friends, colleagues remember former Jemison principal

Published 7:51pm Monday, May 6, 2013

Loving, elegant, giving and leader are just some of the characteristics friends and former colleagues use to describe Margo Gibson, 67, who passed away unexpectedly at her home in Thorsby on Saturday.

“[Margo] had the gift of making you feel like you were her very special friend,” friend and office manager at Clanton First United Methodist Church Lynn Best said on Monday. “She strived to bring out the best and see the best in everyone.”

Best first met Gibson through First United Methodist Church more than 17 years ago and the two quickly became good friends.

“I am a single mom and she made sure on every occasion to give me a little card or certificate or something that would encourage me,” Best said. “My life will never be the same without her.”

Gibson and late husband, John, first moved to Chilton County when they opened Jemison Sportswear in 1978. Gibson helped support the family as John started the apparel industry including two sons, Phillip and Wesley.

Gibson had a passion for education and received her master’s in education from the University of Montevallo. She started her career in the Chilton County school system as a special education teacher and later taught English at Jemison High School. Gibson volunteered her time and talents to many organizations including the Chilton County Special Olympics. In 1990, Gibson was elected to the Chilton County Board of Education, appointed principal of Jemison High School in 1995 and was named Alabama High School Principal of the Year in 2005. She retired in 2008 to spend more time with her husband.

During her retirement, Gibson served as Lay Leader for First United Methodist Church and taught Sunday School for many years.

Ken Baldwin was the leader of the Sunday School class where Gibson taught and he remembers her as an outstanding Christian. First United Methodist Church pastor Larry Anderson said Gibson was a selfless leader and a godly lady.

Jemison Mayor Eddie Reed worked with Gibson when she taught English at Jemison High School and later became principal in 1994.

“She was a professional person with a heart,” Reed said. “She kept our school progressive. Her room was next to mine and through different things that would happen, she would call me out and cool me down. She watched after me.”

Reed said Gibson inspired him in many ways, and the community of Jemison owes a lot to Gibson who made lasting contributions to the community that will be remembered for many years to come.

“I have worked with her for more than 20 years and she was a pillar of our community,” Reed said. “I was in complete shock when I heard that she had passed away and my heart is heavy and goes out to her family who is grieving during this difficult time.”

Jemison High Assistant Principal Diane Calloway worked with Gibson for nearly 13 years at JHS until Gibson retired in 2008.

Gibson was principal when she interviewed Calloway for a senior English teacher position in 1994.

“I learned a lot working with her on how to work with people,” Calloway said. “She was very strong, very intelligent, very fair; she was just really a great lady.”

Like Calloway, Gibson taught English at JHS before serving as principal.

“We had that commonality between us,” Calloway said. “I just really have high thoughts of her.”

Calloway said Gibson was regularly involved with Chilton County Special Olympics and attended this year’s event on May 2.

“She loved that,” Calloway said. “She was very passionate about that.”

Calloway said she and Gibson stayed in touch with each other after Gibson retired.

“It was always very pleasant to be around her,” Calloway said. “She was respected by everyone she met and will be truly missed.”

Longtime friend Gail Sharman shared memories of her friend who was a member of “the girls,” a group of Chilton County women who met and bonded starting in the late 1970s.

The group was nicknamed “the girls” by Gibson’s husband, John who was from South Carolina and would pronounce the word “girls” in a thick Southern accent. Sharman said the way John pronounced the word made everyone laugh so the nickname stuck with the women. “We were very close and we were there for each other in whatever life tossed our way,” Sharman said. “Whether it was a birth, graduation, birthday party, wedding or funeral, we were always there to show support for one another. We didn’t always see each other that much but we knew that if we needed to call one another in the middle of the night for something, we could.”

Sharman said the group of women formed when Gibson and Pat Moore became friends due to both of their husbands coming to Chilton County to work in the garment industry in 1978.

“Margo formed the girls group and there were 12 of us who became really close throughout the years,” Sharman said.

Sharman said some of the favorite activities the group would share would be going out to eat at restaurants in Birmingham or Montgomery or getting together on Wednesday evenings for games of bridge or tennis.

“Margo and John had a tennis court at their home so we would often go on Wednesday nights and play doubles matches at their house,” Sharman said. “We would also have bridge nights where we would play games of bridge together every week.”

Sharman said out of the group of “the girls” several of the women had gone through losing their husbands and two of the women had a child, but Gibson was the first member of “the girls” to pass away.

“I don’t know what we are going to do,” Sharman said. “[Gibson] was always the one we jokingly said would outlive all of us. I think the shock of losing her so quickly is what is hardest of all. We all shared a friendship together that was very, very special and she will be thoroughly missed.”

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