Darby Gibbons remembered at Tie-Bration celebration

VERO BEACH — The late Darby Gibbons, educator and friend to thousands of students and their families, was remembered at a special Tie-Bration Celebration held Thursday evening at Northern Trust Bank.

Gibbons worked as an English teacher, college counselor and Academic Dean at Saint Edward’s School, and passed away after a long battle with cancer in January, 2009.  Gibbons had also served for many years on the board of Dollars for Scholars, and the event was a fundraiser to benefit a perpetual Morris A. “Darby” Gibbons Memorial Scholarship that was established in his honor.

Gibbons was well known for his extraordinary collection of ties, the wilder the better according to his wife Patti, and guests had been encouraged to wear some of their favorite Darby-like ties. “My mother taught school for 40 years at Saint Helen’s and people would give her earrings; they gave Darby ties,”  said Patti.  “She’s wearing a Grinch tie,” Patti said of her mother Ollie Willmot.  “They had a very special relationship since they were both teachers.”


Both Patti and Darby Gibbons grew up in Vero Beach and met on a blind date in 1966.  “We went to Ocean Grill; a very special place for us.  We went there for all special occasions, including my birthday right before he died.”

Although “pinned” in college, she eventually moved to Atlanta and he to teach at a boarding school in Massachusetts.  “We didn’t see each other for seven years.  We both came back for Christmas in 1976 and got married in July, 1977.”  They lived in Massachusetts until returning to Vero Beach in the mid 1980s, when he began teaching at Saint Edward’s.

Sandy Kahle, who had intertwined her soft pink and grey hued tie with matching multi-colored pearls, said that Darby had been her children’s English teacher.  “He was a wonderful, wonderful teacher and had such a big heart for the students.  He really drew people to him.”

Nancy Luther, wearing a Mickey Mouse tie that was from Darby’s collection, said she and fellow classmate Anne Replogle graduated from Vero Beach High School a year after Darby did.  “He was absolutely brilliant and the most compassionate person I’ve ever known.  He scored 1600 on his SATs; a perfect score.  He could have done anything, and he chose education.  He gave of himself all the time; he was the most selfless person I’ve ever known.”

Of her festive jacket Alma Lee Loy said, “I don’t have a tie, but this is my Darby jacket because it’s so bright and colorful.”

Sporting a Gator tie, David Kanarek remembered Darby as his advisor.  “He played an integral role in advising me towards school.”  Kanarek ultimately received his Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Florida.  His mother Carol Kanarek was wearing a Save the Children tie covered with children’s happy faces.

Michele Sternberg had borrowed a tie she gave to her husband that was adorned with photos of their three children.  “Darby and I worked together for 16 years.  He was my boss, mentor and best friend at Saint Eds.  We were both English teachers originally, then I worked for him in college counseling and now I’m in his position as Director of College Counseling.  I frequently have moments where I’ll ask myself, “What would Darby think about this,” and wish I could tell him about things that happen.”

During a brief presentation, DFS board member Gaye Ludwig reiterated the theme of the event, celebrating “the things that tie us together” and added, “We all have a special place for Darby in our hearts.”

Sam Block, another long-time DFS board member, said his ties with Darby went back to their childhood together in Vero Beach.  “He went away to teach school, but came back to Vero Beach with a passion.  He had great expectations for his students and tried to get them to think; to use their intellect.”

“We are saluting that passion so that we can help worthy students with a need who wouldn’t otherwise be able to pursue their own passions.”

Dollars for Scholars offers scholarship opportunities to students with financial need who demonstrate the desire and academic ability to succeed in pursuing a post-secondary education.  Since 1965, DFS has provided more than $6.7 million in scholarships to 2,406 Indian River County students.

Shannon Staunton, from the 2009 Saint Edward’s graduating class, was the first recipient of the Darby Gibbons Scholarship.  She spoke eloquently to the group of his assistance in helping her to achieve her goal of attending the University of Central Florida.  “I took away the philosophy to never give up.  The scholarship opened up a great opportunity for me.”

At the end of the evening, Dollars for Scholars Executive Director Camilla Wainwright gave out colorful remembrance bookmarks which carried the Daniel Webster quote, “What a man does for others gives him immortality.”  A fitting testament to a very special man, Morris A. “Darby” Gibbons. {igallery 155}

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