Lois K. Gibson’s many letters published in the Star Tribune and its predecessors over nearly half a century document her deep engagement in the world around her.
Some were short. Like the letter she wrote last year praising baseball hero Joe Mauer: “No tats. No body embellishments.”
Others were longer, on weightier subjects such as the revitalization of downtown St. Paul, the growth of the Minnesota Opera, the need for health care reform.
And this one from 2000 on the importance of voting: “To anyone who isn’t going to vote because you don’t think your vote counts: if you don’t vote, you get what you deserve. The trouble is, the rest of us also get what you deserve.”
Gibson was never short on opinions, her family recalls fondly. And she had plenty of grist for them, with her lifelong involvement in DFL politics, arts groups, Temple Israel and Jewish organizations including the National Council of Jewish Women. Her son Richard described his mother as “a voice behind the scenes in politics.”
“She had an opinion and point of view about most anything,” he said.
Gibson died peacefully at her home in Minneapolis on Tuesday of complications from cancer. She was 92.
She was born in 1927 in Hudson, N.Y. Her parents were staunch Democrats, her father working in hospital supplies and her mother raising Lois and her two siblings.
Gibson eventually went to Ohio State University, where she met the love of her life, Lawrence Gibson, while playing bridge at Hillel House, the university’s Jewish organization. She graduated with a journalism degree. After they married, they moved to New York City and then to New Jersey.
The family landed in Minneapolis in 1966 after Gibson’s husband took a job as director of marketing research at General Mills. They settled in Tangletown, where they raised five children.
The next year, 1967, Gibson’s first letter to the editor appeared.
In it, she decried the flight to the suburbs and called Minneapolis residents to action. “Every time a school referendum fails, every time a park is encroached on, more of the people who support our city financially leave another vacancy here and high-tail it to the suburbs,” she implored. “Thus we contribute to a downward spiral …”
Her children described a lively home growing up, full of music and conversation. She taught them all how to play the piano, they said.
“Every night at six o’clock the seven of us sat down to a home-cooked meal by my mother. There was no telephone, no television. Just the seven of us,” said her daughter Jessica Cook.
Gibson planted her other foot firmly in the community. Jessica said she remembers going door to door as a child in the early 1970s with her mother handing out pamphlets when she ran for the Minneapolis City Council. She ran a strong campaign, records show, but lost.
In 1978, while president of the Minnesota chapter of Americans for Democratic Action, Gibson ran unsuccessfully for the DFL endorsement against the late Martin Sabo for the Fifth District congressional seat.
Gibson was also passionate about the arts and worked with Theatre de la Jeune Lune and the Minnesota Opera. Lin Nelson-Mayson, director of the Goldstein Museum of Design at the University of Minnesota, where Gibson was president of the board in the 1990s, described her as “bold.”
Gibson remained active until her health failed. In the last year she was still taking Uber to play bridge and get her nails done, stuffing her folding walker into the car, her children said.
“She was singing the lyrics to ‘Showboat’ two days before she died,” Jessica said.
Gibson was preceded in death by Lawrence, to whom she was married for 68 years. In addition to Richard and Jessica, she is survived by her other children: Stuart, James and Mark
Funeral services are at 11 a.m. Thursday at Temple Israel, 2323 Fremont Ave. S. in Minneapolis. Shiva is at 7 p.m. Thursday at Temple Israel.